Brazil's air force has flown emergency oxygen supplies to the jungle state of Amazonas devastated by a resurgent pandemic and the government has scrambled to organise nationwide vaccinations, while President Jair Bolsonaro says he "should be at the beach".
Doctors in Amazonas were using their own vehicles to transport patients, as locals sought to buy oxygen tanks on the black market, according to media reports. Desperate relatives, protesting outside hospitals in the state capital of Manaus, said patients had been taken off ventilators as oxygen ran out.
Authorities said oxygen supplies had run out at some hospitals and intensive care wards were so full that scores of patients were being flown to other states. Doctors reported sharing oxygen between patients, alternating every 10 minutes.
The air force flew cylinders with 9300 kilograms of oxygen in from Sao Paulo state with another cargo expected on Friday.
A government plan to start inoculating Brazilians against COVID-19 early next week was in disarray. Bolsonaro said a plane standing by since Friday to pick up two million doses of an AstraZeneca vaccine from India's Serum Institute would now depart in "two or three days".
Brazil's health ministry requested immediate delivery of six million doses of the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac and imported by Sao Paulo state's Butantan biomedical center, saying it needed them for its planned launch of immunisations next week.
Bolsonaro, who has denied the gravity of COVID-19 and has stated he will not be vaccinated, said in a television interview there was little he could do about the pandemic as a second wave of the new coronavirus tore through the country.
"I should be at the beach right now," he said on Band TV, adding his health minister was doing an "exceptional job".
Brazil has the world's second-highest COVID-19 death toll after the United States.
Brazil is now dealing with a snowballing second wave and a new, potentially more contagious, coronavirus variant that originated in Amazonas and prompted Britain on Thursday to bar entry to Brazilians.
Brazil on Friday reported 69,198 new daily coronavirus cases and 1151 deaths from COVID-19, the fourth consecutive day with more than 1000 fatalities.
There were 3151 new cases and 113 deaths in Manaus.
Australian Associated Press