Brazilian doctors battle Covid-19 in the heart of Amazonia

By Raphael Alves and Carla Samon

Manaus/Sao Paulo, May 30 (efe-epa).- The coronavirus spread to the jungles of Brazil’s Amazonas state via the same rivers that doctors and nurses now travel to reach people suffering from an illness blamed for nearly 28,000 deaths in Latin America’s largest nation.

Perched on the banks of the Rio Negro, the largest Amazon tributary by volume and a major river in its own right, the indigenous community of Bela Vista do Jaraqui has felt the impact of the virus despite efforts to keep it at bay.

For more than two months, the only vessels allowed to come ashore have been those transporting necessities or delivering essential services.

This week, however, Bela Vista welcomed a team of physicians, nurses and health officials from Manaus, the state capital.

Members of the riverine medical unit test the more than 300 inhabitants for Covid-19 and confirm that several of them are infected.

They made the trip to Bela Vista after getting reports about “suspicious cases” in the settlement, unit leader Assis Calvacante da Silva tells Efe.

Wearing masks and seated on wooden benches, plastic chairs and the low brick walls of a pavilion, dozens of residents wait patiently for their turn with the doctors.

Leonildo Pinheiro Lima, who has spent nearly half of his 66 years in Bela Vista do Jaraqui, tested negative for Covid-19. While his wife, Maria Francisca, took advantage of the medical team’s visit to get assistance with other health issues.

Besides coronavirus, the riverine unit offers tests for syphilis, HIV and pregnancy, as well as a range of procedures and services..

By next Thursday, the team expects to have provided attention to at least 4,000 people from 40 communities along this stretch of the Rio Negro.

Though Brazil’s biggest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro – and the surrounding likenamed states – have the highest numbers of Covid-19 infections and fatalities, recent weeks have seen the virus take hold in Amazonas, with nearly 39,000 cases and some 2,000 deaths.

Three times the size of Spain, Amazonas is severely lacking in health-care infrastructure and the state’s only hospitals with ICUs are in Manaus.

Brazil has more than 465,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, second only to the United States, and is fifth in the world in fatalities, with 27,878. EFE csr-ra/dr

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