BRAZIL (Reuters) – Brazilian Health Minister said on Wednesday that the country’s efforts to buy thousands of ventilators from China to fight the corona virus epidemic have passed and the government is now looking for Brazilian companies to build devices.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was seen meeting supporters and Catholics when he arrived at Alvorada Palace, amid a coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), in Brasilia, Brazil, April 8, 2020. REUTERS / Adriano Machado
“Practically all our equipment purchases in China have not been confirmed,” Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta told a press conference.
Attempts to buy 15,000 ventilators in China failed and Brazil made a new offer, he said, but the results were uncertain in fierce competition for medical supplies in a global pandemic.
Last week, Mandetta was said to have lost a purchase for Chinese supplies and on Tuesday he noted “difficulties” in guaranteeing purchases.
In a positive sign for Brazil’s supply crisis, a private company said they managed to buy 40 tons of masks and test equipment from China, with shipments arriving by cargo plane in Brasilia on Wednesday.
The purchase of 6 million masks and other protective equipment worth 160 million reais ($ 30 million) was made by the pharmaceutical and hospital equipment company Nutriex, based in Goiania, 220 km (138 miles) east of Brasilia. The company plans to donate part of the order to medical institutions.
Health authorities began sounding alarms this week over supply shortages as hospitals face more and more patients with COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in the country surged to 15,927 on Wednesday, with the number of deaths increasing 133 in just 24 hours to 800, the ministry said.
Rio de Janeiro reports the first death from coronavirus in the city’s slums on the hillside, called favela, an alarming authority who is afraid of rapid transmission in this congested community that has limited access to medical care and often lacks clean water for hygiene.
Two of the six deaths occurred in Rocinha, one of the largest slums in South America. The virus has spread to 10 Rio favelas, potentially affecting 2 million people, the mayor’s office said.
Mandetta reported the first case of coronavirus among Yanomami people in the country’s biggest reservation for indigenous tribes and said the government planned to build a field hospital for tribes that were vulnerable to transmission.
“We are very concerned about indigenous peoples,” Mandetta said.
Anthropologists and health experts warn that the epidemic could have a devastating effect on 850,000 indigenous Brazilians whose lifestyles in tribal villages put aside social distance.
President Jair Bolsonaro said in his address to the nation that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine saved the lives of coronavirus patients and should be used in the early stages of COVID-19. Due to the absence of scientific evidence about its effectiveness and safety, Brazilian health authorities are limiting their use to seriously ill patients in hospitals.
Mandetta said Brazil had recruited local unregistered maker of medical equipment Magnamed to make 6,000 ventilators in 90 days.
Pulp and paper companies Suzano SA and Klabin SA, plan maker Embraer SA, information technology provider Positivo Tecnologia SA and car maker Fiat Chrysler have also offered to help build ventilators, he said.
Reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia and Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Christian Schmollinger