The Amazon region, known as Lower Amazon, in the State of Pará, is experiencing a critical moment in the Covid-19 pandemic. Since January 2021, case numbers have been rising at an accelerated pace in a region that has a fragile structure of health care and a limited number of ICUs. The geographical isolation and great distances represent an extra challenge for patient care. This scenario and the confirmation of the presence of the new coronavirus strain in Manaus led the state government of Pará to determine a lockdown, which started on 1st February.
The strength of the second wave has sparked concerns in local communities “This second wave is growing. The number of cases is greater than in the first one. Before, there were 15-20 cases of people hospitalised and now there are almost 50 people. We are committed to talking to the leaders to advise people to stay in their communities”, said Evanilson Marinho de Figueiredo, 38, president of the organisation of riverside communities in Oriximiná, one of the municipalities that make up the Lower Amazon.
The data from the Oriximiná City Hall confirm Figueiredo’s concern: on 3 January, the municipality had 8 hospitalised people. A month later, the number of inpatients rose to 45. The number of deaths has also had a significant increase at the beginning of 2021. Until 3 January the pandemic had caused 73 deaths in Oriximiná. A month later, the deaths already totalled 89. On 9 February, there were more than 100 deaths.
The collapse of the health system in the city of Manaus is also of concern because many have relatives living in that city. “I have a daughter who lives there with my grandchildren. My daughter is pregnant, and she’ll have the baby in July. And with this whole situation, it’s complicated. Many people here, born in our community, live in Manaus, which is a concern for the families, as we see that the situation there is very critical”, vented Wanderly de Aquino Andrade, 52 years old, resident of Quilombo Muratubinha in the municipality of Óbidos.
One year of isolation
The second wave affects a population already tired and impacted by the pandemic. “We have been in this social isolation for almost one year, it’s been really hard. The people have the habit of going to the neighbour’s house. Now we can’t do that, we stay most of the time at home. Now I don’t go out for anything anymore. The only house I still visit is my mother’s, but with precaution, I don’t get too close. This is very distressing for us” reported Fátima Viana Lopes, 52, from the riverside community of Boa Nova.
However, not everyone maintained social distancing in the region. The community members indignantly watched mining activities proceed normally. The largest producer of bauxite in Brazil is located in this region, a company with shareholders from several countries (Vale, South32, Rio Tinto, Companhia Brasileira de Alumínio, Alcoa) that sells to Europe, North America, Asia and Brazil. “Unfortunately, mining continued, and as we cannot organise meetings, this will harm us because we are unable to confront it”, protested Evanilson Marinho. The mining activity was considered “essential activity” by the Brazilian government.