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With hospitals in collapse, Manaus could become Brazil’s Guayaquil

. Apr 22, 2020
With hospitals in collapse, Manaus could become Brazil's Guayaquil Manaus has started to use mass graves to handle Covid-19 deaths

On April 19, The Brazilian Report highlighted the dramatic situation in the public health system of Manaus, the urban island in the middle of the rainforest and capital of Amazonas state. Startling video footage was disclosed by news website UOL, showing panic at hospitals around the city. Fear spread that Manaus could soon become “Brazil’s Guayaquil,” in reference to the Ecuadorian city where the Covid-19 spike caused literal queues of dead bodies in the streets.

These concerns are becoming more and more valid, with even more shocking footage

surfacing from the Amazonas capital, including a video depicting a Covid-19 patient in Manaus <a href="https://g1.globo.com/am/amazonas/noticia/2020/04/21/video-mostra-paciente-que-aguardava-vaga-em-uti-de-hospital-do-am-respirando-com-saco-plastico-improvisado-por-medicos.ghtml">using a plastic bag to breathe</a> due to a lack of proper intensive care equipment. The patient in question was later transferred to a private hospital, but another 63-year-old patient died after waiting four days for an ICU bed. </p> <p>With the state government recording <a href="http://www.saude.am.gov.br/painel/corona/">163 deaths</a> as of April 21, the city of Manaus is home to 85 percent of fatal Covid-19 cases in Amazonas, and 80 percent of all infections.&nbsp;</p> <p>The spike in cases has overwhelmed what is an <a href="https://www.nexojornal.com.br/expresso/2020/04/13/Por-que-o-Amazonas-%C3%A9-o-1%C2%BA-estado-a-ter-um-colapso-na-sa%C3%BAde">already fragile health system</a>. Data editor Marcelo Soares reported that the state only has 919 <a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2020/03/15/brazil-healthcare-system-prepared-covid-19-pandemic/">intensive care beds</a>, a ratio of 1.24 per 100,000 inhabitants — half the ideal proportion of 2.4. The problem is aggravated by the fact that the vast majority of health infrastructure is found in Manaus, meaning it is taking in patients from all over a state that is larger than Iran.  </p> <p>According to state health authorities, <a href="http://www.saude.am.gov.br/visualizar-noticia.php?id=4476">there are 181 confirmed Covid-19 patients</a> in Amazonas hospitals, with 97 in ICUs. However, another 698 suspected cases are also receiving treatment in the hospital, and around one-quarter of them are occupying intensive care beds.</p> <p>Over the weekend, Manaus Mayor Arthur Virgilio Neto burst into tears while speaking of the collapse of the health system, saying that 36.5 percent of the 106 people buried in the state as of April 21 died at home.</p> <p>Mr. Virgilio Neto has also heavily criticized the federal and state government, saying that the city is not receiving the help it requires. State health secretary Simone Papaiz, on the other hand, says the state is working “in synergy” with the federal government, and a further 22 health professionals are expected to arrive in the state this week, plus 23 tons of equipment.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Manaus municipal government also informed on April 18 it is <a href="http://www.manaus.am.gov.br/noticia/inscricoes-abertas-para-a-contratacao-temporaria-de-mais-320-profissionais-de-saude/">hiring another 320 health professionals</a> — among them nurses and pharmacists — on a temporary basis, in addition to 400 previously hired. Thirty-two of them are doctors.</p> <h2>Manaus cemeteries full to the brim</h2> <p>The spike in deaths has also led to an overcrowding of cemeteries in Manaus. According to Mayor Virgilio Neto, the city saw an average of 20 to 35 burials per day before the pandemic. Now this rate has surpassed 100.</p> <p>The public cemetery of Nossa Senhora Aparecida received extra cold storage containers in order to store corpses and even began digging collective graves in order to fit the city&#8217;s Covid-19 dead. Funerals are being allowed to go ahead, with a maximum capacity of five people at any one time.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Corruption allegations</h2> <p>Amid the collapse, public prosecutors in Amazonas state are <a href="https://g1.globo.com/am/amazonas/noticia/2020/04/21/apos-denuncias-ministerio-publico-de-contas-do-am-investiga-se-houve-superfaturamento-em-compra-de-respiradores-para-rede-publica.ghtml">investigating complaints of overpricing</a> in the purchase of ventilators. According to the prosecution service, 28 units of breathing apparatus were purchased for BRL 2.97 million, working out to a unit cost of almost double what the federal government is paying for similar equipment.

 
Natália Scalzaretto

Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Most recently, she worked as an Editor for Trading News, the information division from the TradersClub investor community.

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