Oxygen shortages cause spike in coronavirus deaths in Mexico

Oxygen shortages cause spike in coronavirus deaths in Mexico
A man carries two empty medical Oxygen tanks as he waits in a line at a refill shop in downtown Mexico City. Photo: Nelson Antoine/Shutterstock

Earlier in 2021, the Brazilian city of Manaus — the biggest in the Amazon region — suffered a full-scale health collapse as hospitals ran out of available intensive care beds and encountered a shortage of oxygen supplies. Dozens of patients died of asphyxiation as health units became “suffocation chambers,” per some accounts. The crisis was so grave that Brazil’s normally docile Prosecutor General Augusto Aras called for an investigation into the conduct of Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello.

Now, Mexico is facing similar problems.

The New York Times reports that a second wave of the coronavirus has filled hospitals with patients. Those who must stay at home are dying due to a lack of oxygen tanks — as heated demand created a cut-throat black market in which only the highest bidders can get their hands on the much-needed supplies.

The federal government sent the Mexican National Guard to protect certified trucks transporting oxygen tanks to hospitals and ordered producers to prioritize oxygen for human consumption over industrial oxygen.

In January, Mexico recorded more than 30,000 deaths, the highest monthly toll to date.

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