A year later, Manaus fears third Covid health collapse

manaus Vaccination station in Manaus, Brazil. Photo: BW Press/Shutterstock
Vaccination station in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. Photo: BW Press/Shutterstock

Manaus, the biggest city in the Amazon rainforest, has experienced a massive surge in Covid infections this year as the Omicron variant continues to spread. New daily cases jumped from 37 two weeks ago to almost 1,700 on Wednesday — on par with March 2021 levels, when the city faced its worst phase of the pandemic so far.

Citizens have rushed to pharmacies and health units to either test themselves or treat flu-like symptoms, and local officials have suspended vacations and leaves of absence for health workers, and are preparing to increase the number of available hospital beds.

States in the Amazon region have posted some of Brazil’s lowest vaccination rates in the country. In Amazonas, where Manaus is located, only 54 percent of the population is fully immunized.

A year ago, Manaus ran out of medical oxygen as community transmission of Covid-19 hit untenable levels, leading to dozens of patients dying of suffocation while awaiting treatment. It was the city’s second health system collapse. In 2020, the city had already become one of the world’s biggest coronavirus hotbeds, with roughly two-thirds of the population believed to have contracted Covid-19.