Brazil’s daily death toll in Covid – 19 rose to more than 3,000 for the first time on Tuesday, as the hard-hit country struggled to keep a wave of cases that have driven many hospitals to a breaking point.
The Ministry of Health registered a record 3,251 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing Brazil’s total death toll to almost 299,000 – second only to the United States.
The latest dismal milestone came on the same day that President Jair Bolsonaro installed his fourth health minister for the pandemic, facing pressure to change thanks after deepening the virus and criticizing expert advice for containing it.
Cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga, 55, took over the post from Eduardo Pazuello, an army general with no medical experience whose handling of Covid-19 was widely criticized.
Above all, Pazuello is under investigation for failing to secure the supply of oxygen to the northern city of Manaus, where there were horrific scenes in January of Covid-19 patients suffocating to death when hospitals closed.
Bolsonaro’s first two health ministers, doctors Luiz Henrique Mandetta and Nelson Teich, both fell out with the president over his opposition to expert advice on how the virus should be contained.
Brazil’s average daily death toll in Covid-19 has more than tripled since the beginning of the year to 2,364, currently the highest in the world.
Experts say the explosion is driven by a local variant of the virus that is suspected to be more contagious.
In a new warning sign, the prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday that the Ministry of Health told it that medical oxygen supply was at “worrying” levels in six of Brazil’s 27 states.
One of Brazil’s top oxygen suppliers, White Martins, said it was competing to keep pace with an “exponential increase” in demand of up to 300 percent in some regions, prosecutors said in a statement.
Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most densely populated state and industrial hub, said on Monday that it would set up an emergency facility within ten days in collaboration with brewery Ambev to deliver congested hospitals.
The state, 46 million inhabitants, has been hit hard by the new wave of Covid-19.
Globo TV reported last week that at least 135 people died in Sao Paulo, waiting in line for intensive care beds with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus.
In Brasilia, more than 400 people are currently waiting in line for ICU beds. Videos circulating online show bodies stacked in hospital corridors awaiting transfer to the capital’s overcrowded mortuary.
The six states whose oxygen supply is most critical are Acre and Rondonia in the northwest, Mato Grosso in the center-west, Amapa in the north and Ceara and Rio Grande do Norte in the northeast, prosecutors said.
Brazil has now registered 12.1 million confirmed Covid-19 infections, which is also the second highest in the world, after the United States.