Brazil Airlifts Emergency Oxygen To Manaus
Brazil’s Air Force has delivered emergency supplies of oxygen to the jungle state of Amazonas, and premature babies were to be airlifted to other states from local hospitals overwhelmed by a devastating new surge in COVID-19 cases.
Doctors were using their own vehicles to transport patients, as Manaus residents sought to buy oxygen tanks on the black market, local media reported. Desperate relatives, protesting outside city hospitals, said patients had been taken off ventilators as oxygen ran out.
Sao Paulo Governor João Doria said some 60 premature babies in incubators needed to be relocated to other parts of Brazil, while officials said hospitals needed three times more oxygen than was available.
Manaus was one of the first cities to reel from the pandemic in Brazil, which has the world’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll after the United States. Critics of President Jair Bolsonaro said the grim situation there was just the latest example of his poor handling of the crisis.
The country has yet to begin vaccinations, is dealing with a snowballing second wave and a new, potentially more contagious, coronavirus variant that originated in Amazonas and prompted Britain on Thursday to bar entry to Brazilians.
Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain who has downplayed the pandemic and opposed stricter social controls to halt its spread, said on Friday the government had already done what it could in Manaus.
“The problem is terrible there. Now, we have done our part,” he told supporters outside the presidential palace, adding that the military was installing a temporary hospital.
Critics drew parallels between the lack of oxygen and the failure to begin vaccinations in Latin America’s biggest country. The government wants to start administering shots next week but has yet to announce an official start date.
A government-chartered plane was due to fly to India on Friday to collect two million AstraZeneca doses. But that shipment may face delays while India decides whether to loosen export regulations as it begins its own inoculation drive this weekend, a source briefed on the matter said.
India will be able to decide on exports of coronavirus vaccines within the next few weeks, foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said.