As coronavirus stalks Brazil's Amazon, many die untreated at home

By Kelly Bruno and Araujo Gabriel

MANAUS (Reuters) — On Monday, Shirlene Morais Costa, the latest survivor of the destructive wave of COVID-19 returning to this remote city deep in the Amazon rainforest in Northern Brazil.

The 53-year-old was diagnosed with cough and fever, both of which were coronaviral symptoms but had been returned off, according to his stepfather, Esteliano Lopes Filho, 74.

"Her death was swift... We called the ambulance, but it only arrived after she was dead," he said.

"We're seeing death after death... It really is a terrible calamity."

Brazil was the second deadliest coronavirus epidemic in the world after the United States, and Manaus was one of the first Brazilian towns to crunch from the first wave of the pandemic last year in a spiraling death and caseload.

So many became infectious that some scientists claimed the city may have approached herd immunity of 2 million inhabitants.

But this projection has proven to be rather broad.

The state of Amazona, where almost 6,000 people died from COVID-19, is now facing the catastrophic second round of emergency care.

Many people are dying at home, including Morais Costa.

According to data from the Amazon State Health Department, beds for COVID-19 patients in the state hit an occupancy rate of over 98 percent this week.

Occupancy of temporary facilities offering support to vital patients with future reference to other health network sites was 131%.

Currently, there are 1,391 patients with COVID-19 in hospital in the province, and 603 others with confirmed cases, the data show.

Refrigerated containers were first placed outside the major hospitals in Manaus last week from the April pandemic.

The bins are used to hold bodies as the municipal healthcare and funeral systems are again overloaded.

(Gabriel Stargardter's editing and O'Brien's editing)