Drastic effects of COVID in Manaus, Brazil: No oxygen, patients transferred, curfew
Digging mass graves in a public cemetery on the west side of Manaus / Michael Dantas.

This week the capital of the state of Amazonas, Brazil, broke the record for new hospitalizations and burials. Today Amazonians invaded the social networks in despair. The State clamors for the federal government to help.

The crisis in Manaus, provoked by the alarming number of cases of COVID-19, placed the state capital at the center of the emergencies on January 14. With the lack of oxygen, the most important input for the treatment of serious cases of the disease, Wilson Lima, the state governor, confirmed that Amazonian patients will be transferred to the states of Goiás, Piauí, Maranhão, Brasília, Paraíba, and Rio Grande do Norte.

On the social networks, videos are circulating of desperate people in the capital city’s health care units. In Mônica Bergamo’s column in the Folha de S. Paulo, researcher Jesem Orellana, of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) Amazônia, said that he had been getting dramatic accounts from professionals in frontline ICUs.

“They are saying emphatically that oxygen has run out at institutions like the Getúlio Vargas University Hospital and emergency care services like the José de Jesus Lins de Albuquerque clinic,” he said. “There are reports that an entire wing of patients died when they ran out of air.”

Earlier, Coronel Franco Duarte, a representative of the Health Ministry, reported that other states should be receiving Amazonian patients who are in a moderate phase of the disease, according to the network G1. “These are patients who are still dependent on oxygen but are strong enough to be flown elsewhere,” Duarte said. “Any Amazonian patient who boards a plane or helicopter will be absolutely secure and have all the help he or she needs, including psychosocial assistance, so there won’t be any slip-ups.”

At the beginning of the week, Gov. Wilson Lima had already recorded a video appealing for help from the federal government and from other states: “We are entering a dramatic situation,” he said. The communiqué spoke of the lack of liquid oxygen in the state network. After consumption increased from 176,00 to 850,000 cubic meters per month, representatives of the companies that furnished the oxygen said they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand.

The state capital broke a record for new hospitalizations, totaling 2,221 just in the first 12 days of January. There was also a record number of burials in the last two weeks, with an average of 111 a day. On Tuesday, 90% of all the ICU beds in Manaus were occupied in the public network and 93% in the private network.

Curfew imposed and school exams postponed

After the repercussion caused by the situation, Governor Wilson Lima announced a decree early this afternoon that will prohibit people from circulating in Manaus from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., to try to contain their being contaminated by the disease. Only essential services will be exempted. The order should go into effect as soon as the decree is published, which should be by the end of the day. This Wednesday, the Federal Court also suspended the National Middle School Exam (ENEM) in Amazonas, due to the crisis. The tests were scheduled to happen this Sunday.

A new strain

According to specialists, the new outbreak in Manaus may have been the result of a new variant of the disease, also discovered in Japan, that makes the virus more lethal. This information is also from G1. The new strain, which was given the name P.1, was studied by scientists at ten institutions, among them Imperial College London and Oxford University, both in England, and the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Tropical Medicine. According to the study, which analyzed genetic material from 31 samples of patients from Manaus with COVID-19 between December 15 and 23, 42% of the total number presented precisely this new mutation.

Translated for People’s World by Peter Lownds. The original article in GGN (Jan. 14, 2021) can be viewed here.


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Jornal GGN

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