According to data from Brazil’s Health Ministry, the coronavirus has killed nearly 2,000 people out of every 1 million inhabitants of the state of Amazonas, meaning the largest Brazilian state is home to the world’s highest Covid-19 death rate.
The unprecedented health crisis in Amazonas has led to a shortage of oxygen cylinders in hospitals of the state capital Manaus, where several patients have been left to suffocate to death. On Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced that his government will send three trucks filled with oxygen cylinders to Amazonas and the neighboring state of Roraima, in order to help mitigate the crisis.
The collapse of health systems in the Brazilian Amazon has largely been caused by the emergence of a new coronavirus variant, obliterating claims that the region had achieved “herd immunity” following its first devastating outbreak in March 2020 — when two-thirds of Manaus residents contracted the virus, per scientific estimates.
This week, Brazilian researchers wrote in medical journal The Lancet that an epidemic of that scale “should confer important population immunity to avoid a larger outbreak” — but that has not been the case.
Besides Amazonas, other Brazilian states are seeing their health networks crumble, with many being forced to rebuild field hospitals they dismantled months ago. According to Mike Ryan, the head of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, the new variant is not the sole culprit for the crisis. He suggests that millions have simply stopped adhering to social distancing rules or using masks.Support this coverage →