Bondas agrees to wear mask after initial reluctance, 12 hit by COVID-19

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Malkangiri (Odisha), May 18 (PTI) With 12 people belonging to the Bonda tribes being infected by COVID-19 hitting national headlines and the members of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) refusing to wear masks and take medical assistance, Malkangiri district collector and senior officials Tuesday rushed to Bonda hills to spread awareness.

District collector Dr Yeddula Vijay accompanied by Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) Prafulla Nanda visited Bonda hills and met the people there. The residents, who initially refused to wear masks and adhere to the COVID-19 protocols, finally agreed to cooperate with the administration, a senior official said.

The collector distributed face masks, sanitisers, hand wash and soaps to the community who stay on hilltops. The Bonda tribes, whose population is around 8,000 live in 32 villages spread over two gram panchayats (GP) Andrahal and Mudulipada. While Andrahal GP comprises most of the villages in hilltops, known as Bonda hills, the community has a sizeable presence in Mudulipada GP.

As 12 of the Bonda tribes have tested positive for the infection and half of them have already recovered and others under treatment, the administration rushed to the Bonda hills to create awareness among the people.

Meanwhile, the district administration has sealed the road connecting Ankadil weekly haat (market) in Andhra Pradesh from where they are suspected to get the infection. The state government has stopped the weekly haat in Odisha jurisdiction as the infection reached the area during the second wave of the pandemic.

The district authorities have formed a team with Khairaput Block Development Officer and other administrative officials for the mass awareness programme in the villages in the tribal pocket.

They imparted training on the proper use of masks, social distancing, prompt isolation in case of suspected cases, and other appropriate Covid protocols. The campaign is going on from door-to-door in Bonda Hills.

Officials also teach them how to maintain hand hygiene to prevent infection.

The region of Bonda Hill is situated in the Eastern Ghat ranges in Malkangiri, was comparatively untouched by the Covid outbreak during the first wave of the pandemic.

Apart from Bondas', other PVTGs like Dongoria Kondh living in the Niyamgiri Hills of Rayagada district and others have been infected by the infection. So far as many as 45 members of the PVTG have tested positive for the infection.

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