Oxygen theft and fake tests: Latin America’s underground coronavirus economy

oxygen fake tests
Man in Jalisco, Mexico. Photo: Divisual Jo/Shutterstock

New peaks in Covid-19 infections have driven cities across Latin America to a situation of healthcare collapse. In multiple countries, the sheer number of patients infected with new and more contagious variants of the coronavirus has emptied supplies of oxygen cylinders, with patients dying of asphyxiation in Brazil and Peru.

In Mexico, which reported a record number of new daily deaths on January 20 (a confirmed 1,584 casualties) and over 20,000 new daily cases, the desperation of patients has led to attempts to steal oxygen cylinders from hospitals. 

In the northern state of Sonora, one man tried to storm a hospital in order to steal oxygen supplies. Meanwhile, two individuals were arrested on the outskirts of Mexico City carrying 44 tanks.

The market for fake Covid-19 tests

In Chile, one medical center near Santiago was caught selling fake negative Covid-19 tests for USD 85 apiece. Their main customers, according to law enforcement, were travelers who had to prove they were not carrying the virus in order to leave quarantine. The complaint was confirmed by the chief of the Regional Health Secretary, Paula Labra, who said that a lab named ‘Care Full Home’ had been offering PCR tests with negative results within hours, without even collecting nasal samples.

Remember: Covid-19 creates a corruption pandemic in Latin America

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