Brazilian government to blame for Amazon’s oxygen crisis

Pedro Rodrigues

Brazilian doctors and nurses holding signs that praise respect for social distancing rules. (Photo: camyfaustino)

The COVID-19 crisis gained a new chapter in Brazil this past month. As the government is already suffering from critics of mismanagement regarding the current public health administration, the scarcity of oxygen tanks in the northern state of Amazonas can only make it worse for federal and state governments. 

It is not a surprise that Brazil is struggling with the Coronavirus pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, the South American country presents the third-highest number of infections with nine million confirmed cases. It is also the second deadliest nation behind the United States, with more than 220.000 deaths. 

After a short moment of stabilization following the first lockdown, the cases started to rise again. More specifically, a new strike mainly affected cities and villages surrounded by the Amazon rainforest. 

For instance, the state of Amazonas has been going through a shortage of oxygen resources for COVID-19 patients. Due to the lack of structured roads and locations where boats are the primary transportation method across the river, logistics are complicated. 

Also, public health authorities recently discovered a new variant of the virus in the region, which is still under analysis to identify its transmission rates. As reported by Brazil’s Health Ministry today, Amazonas now registers 271.000 Coronavirus cases and more than 8000 casualties. 

The nurse Fabricio de Souza Lima, who works at the Amazonian hospital Delphina Aziz, says that “the government should have been better prepared” for this crisis. The hospital where Lima work is a reference in COVID-19 treatment, as he argues that the government should have invested in “larger storage of oxygen tanks” and provided “more detailed information about the virus to the population.” 

According to doctor Kleber Cassius Rodrigues, from Sao Paulo, this situation results from many distinct factors. He states that the Brazilian public health system is definitely necessary, but “it does not have enough resources to attend to people’s high demand for health care in Amazonas.” Moreover, the doctor blames local corruption in the area and the federal government’s improper inspection of public finances for the disastrous scenario.  

Following increasingly pressure from the media and civil society, the state general attorney, Augusto Aras, decided to open an investigation on Amazonas’ public administration and the current Health Minister Eduardo Pazzuello based on omission and mismanagement of the pandemic as reported by the newspaper Estadao. 

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the Pandemic many times since March 2020, expressed his condolences to the victims in a press conference but avoided talking about the government’s role in the issue. “The problem is terrible there. Now, we have done our part,” said Bolsonaro on January 15th.

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