The surge in infections and hospitalizations is overwhelming the health system in the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas.
A Brazilian Supreme Court judge has approved an investigation into the Minister of Health’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Amazon city of Manaus, where the health system has been pushed to its limits by an increase in infections.
Brazilian Supreme Court Judge Ricardo Lewandowski has approved an investigation into the response of Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello to the situation in Manaus, Reuters news agency reported, citing a court document released on Monday.
Attorney General Augusto Aras will have 60 days to investigate, the document says, while Pazuello will have five days to testify to federal police.
The Brazilian government has faced a lot of criticism and protests over its response to the pandemic. The country has reported more than 8.8 million cases of COVID-19 to date and more than 217,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
But the situation in Manaus, the capital of the Amazon state in northwestern Brazil, and the government’s handling of the crisis have been particularly alarming for many.
The city hospitals are stretched and families scrambled to find oxygen to help relatives positive for COVID amid an outbreak of infections during the second wave of the pandemic.
A lack of oxygen prompted Brazil to airlift supplies to Amazonas earlier this month.
A potentially more transmissible variant of COVID-19 has also been discovered in the state, creating physician concerns and public health experts that it could spread to other parts of the country as well.
Aras, the attorney general, had asked the Supreme Court to approve the investigation after citing a document that the health ministry was aware of the depleted oxygen stocks at hospitals in Manaus on January 8, but did not start sending additional supplies until four days later.
Protests against Bolsonaro
Protesters denounced President Jair Bolsonaro, who played down the threat of the coronavirus, this weekend for his government’s handling of the pandemic and the difficult start of COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts.
Brazil approved two vaccines – from Sinovac Biotech in China and AstraZeneca in the UK – for emergency use earlier this month, but he faced delays in delivering the active ingredients to produce the doses he needed need to inoculate people.
Bolsonaro on Monday thanked China for quickly approving the export of enough active ingredients to produce around 8.5 million doses of Sinovac Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine made in Sao Paulo.
Bolsonaro tweeted that China has also ramped up the approval of active ingredient supplies to make AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in Brazil.
Brazil’s federally funded Fiocruz Institute, which has reached a deal with AstraZeneca to produce up to 100 million doses of its vaccine, said on Monday it expects China to send the ingredient. active ingredient needed to perform the injections locally around February 8.
He previously said he could deliver finished doses in March, but now says he will wait for the Chinese shipment before giving a more specific deadline.