Brazil has begun distributing an emergency batch of intubation medicines flown in from China, with hospitals around the country running out of vital supplies for treating Covid-19 patients on ventilators.
As it grapples with a second wave of coronavirus that is deadlier than the first, Latin America’s largest nation is scrambling to secure medication for sedating people who require invasive mechanical breathing support.
The situation has led to fears among medical professionals that patients could wake up while still intubated.
An initial shipment of 2.3m intubation ‘kits’, which contain sedatives, muscular neuroblockers and analgesic opioids manufactured in China, landed in São Paulo late on Thursday evening. They were purchased and donated to Brazil’s public health system by a group of companies including Petrobras, Vale, Engie, Itaú Unibanco, Klabin and Raízen. A further 1.1m kits are expected by the end of the month.
The shortage follows Brazil’s difficulties obtaining adequate vaccine ingredients and doses, while earlier in the year oxygen canisters had to be airlifted to the Amazonian city of Manaus after it was overwhelmed by an explosion in Covid-19 infections.
Following criticism of president Jair Bolsonaro’s response to the pandemic, the country’s Senate this week launched a probe into his administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
So far 365,000 people have died from the disease in Brazil, the second-highest death toll after the US, or 11th on a per capita basis.
The latest government figures showed new Covid-19 cases decreased slightly to 73,174 over the previous 24 hours. Despite a fall in daily fatalities since hitting a record last week, the numbers were still elevated at 3,560.
Intensive care wards in more than half of Brazil’s states have occupancy rates above 90 per cent, according to the biomedical institute Fiocruz.