The Brazilian jungle state of Amazonas received more emergency supplies of oxygen and respirators on Saturday, as the military and neighboring Venezuela scrambled to alleviate an unfolding humanitarian crisis caused by a devastating COVID-19 outbreak.
The army also said it had evacuated 12 patients from hospitals in the state capital Manaus to the northern city of Sao Luis overnight, with hospitals at breaking point with no oxygen supplies and overflowing intensive care wards.
Mass graves were dug in Manaus during the first wave of the pandemic last year. Harrowing scenes are again emerging in the second wave, of doctors and relatives running out of supplies and equipment trying desperately to keep alive patients struck by the virus.
Brazil’s Air Force said on Saturday a second flight had landed in Manaus with eight tanks of liquid oxygen, following an earlier emergency delivery of five tanks, and the Navy said in a statement that it is sending 40 respirators.
Venezuela, meanwhile, said it has sent the first batch of oxygen supplies on the 1,500-km (930-mile) road trip to Amazonas, which should arrive in Manaus on Sunday.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the Venezuelan government “will supply oxygen for the duration of the emergency situation in the state of Amazonas”.
Brazil is now dealing with a snowballing second wave of the virus and a new, potentially more contagious, coronavirus variant that originated in Amazonas and prompted Britain on Thursday to bar entry to Brazilians.
The government of President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain and COVID-skeptic, has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the crisis and its failure so far to roll out a vaccination program, while the death toll marches higher.