July 30, 2020 / 10:03 PM / 6 days ago

Brazil descendents of escaped slaves tested for coronavirus

REGISTRO, Brazil (Reuters) - Escaped slaves in Brazil seeking to live freely often set up communities called quilombos where their former owners could not find them.

Daiane do Nascimento gets tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by Butantan Institute in Quilombo Peropava, an afro-descendant community, first established by escaped slaves, in Registro, Sao Paulo state, Brazil July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

But the coronavirus has found its way to one, Peropava in Sao Paulo state, which has survived since slavery was abolished in 1888.

On Wednesday, 120 masked residents of Peropava lined up to submit for mass testing for the novel coronavirus, after several members of the community contracted the disease.

“We didn’t think it would reach here, a place that is quite isolated. But unfortunately it arrived,” said Valdir Cabral, a resident who is recovering from COVID-19.

Cabral still spends his time resting in bed in his concrete home in the forest, chickens pecking at feed just outside the door.

Health workers with the biomedical center The Butantan Institute administered the tests by pricking fingers and dripping the blood into the openings of plastic rapid testing kits.

The institute did not announce how many people tested positive for the virus but said the results would be used to help prevent spreading it.

Registro, the municipality of roughly 56,000 people where Peropava is located, has registered 824 COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths from the disease, according to the local health secretary’s office.

Brazil is the worst-hit country in the pandemic, after the United States. On Wednesday, Brazil set daily records for new COVID-19 cases and related fatalities, with 69,074 ill and 1,595 dead in a single 24-hour period.

The Butantan Institute is focusing on helping the most vulnerable communities, including Brazil’s indigenous peoples, who often have limited access to medical care.

“It is necessary to reinforce our activities in the poorest regions, the peripheries of big cities, the smaller municipalities, in the sense of making them understand what’s at stake and making them adhere to preventative measures,” Butantan director Dimas Covas said.

Reporting by Pablo Garcia; Additional Reporting by Gabriel Araujo in Sao Paulo; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Richard Chang

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