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Brazilian Bishops and Sisters call for help in battle against new Covid-19 strain

18 January 2021

18 January 2021 

Church leaders from Brazil’s largest state, Amazonas - where hospitals are running out of oxygen and ICU beds, amid soaring coronavirus infections – have come together to call for urgent support.

Speaking exclusively to UK aid agency CAFOD, Sister Irene from the Brazilian organisation REPAM who works alongside communities throughout the Brazilian Amazon, said:

“The situation is dramatic. Many people are dying outside the largest public hospital of Manaus (the capital state of Amazonas) while waiting. The same is happening inside the hospital due to lack of staff, oxygen and ICU beds.”

Last Friday (15 January), eyewitnesses in Manaus observed 213 burials in the city. This is a rate never seen before, with the usual death rate at around 30 people per day. Among the deaths on Friday, it was reported that 30 people died at home, without medical attention, due to lack of places in hospitals.

Sister Irene continued: “With a new variant of the virus in Brazil, that has a greater and faster capacity to infect people, the weak national vaccination programme announced at the end of December - which has not yet started - is far from an adequate response to the gravity of this public health crisis.

“It breaks my heart to witness this avoidable chaos in a country that, as a result of the great efforts of doctors, health professionals, civil society organizations, and popular campaigns, created the SUS (our NHS), which is based on the British health service.

“Yet, we all know the importance of political will in tackling big challenges - as history has shown so many times – and once again, the poorest are in the worst situation. They depend solely and exclusively on the public health service which is operating above capacity in terms of beds, oxygen, and personnel.”

In Brazil, the second wave of COVID-19 cases is now outstripping the first wave. So far, there have been almost 8.5 million confirmed cases and over 200,000 deaths - the second-highest number of deaths in the world.

Due to the rapid increase of cases, the state government of Amazonas declared a lockdown last week and planned to transfer 250 serious COVID patients to other Brazilian capitals. As of yesterday, however, ICUs were 100 per cent occupied throughout Manaus’s hospitals and there was lack of oxygen across the healthcare services.

Over the weekend, Dom Leonardo Steiner, the Archbishop of Manaus, called on the international community for urgent support. He said:

"In the first wave, people died from a lack of information, beds in hospitals, and ICUs in Amazonas and Roraima. Today, in the second wave, people are dying, incredible as it may seem, from a lack of oxygen. Even hospitalized, they lack oxygen.

“We, bishops of Amazonas and Roraima, make an appeal: for the love of God, send us oxygen. The population cannot continue to die for lack of oxygen and beds in the ICUs.”

UK aid agency CAFOD is currently supporting REPAM to provide hygiene kits and information to communities across the Brazilian Amazon – but more help is urgently needed.

Archbishop Steiner continued: “Let us leave behind the arguing, the denial. Let us leave behind politics which divides and corrupts. Let us leave behind profiting from the Pandemic.

“I make another appeal in name of our Bishops, that we put ourselves at the service of others, that we continue to use a mask, follow social distancing and carry on caring for each other’s health.

“We are in a difficult moment of the Pandemic, which seems almost without an end. Let us all make our contribution and engage with solidarity in caring for the life of one another.”


For further information and interviews with spokespeople, please contact: Elouise Hobbs,, Mobile: +44 (0)7954 077426, Or, CAFOD’s 24-hour media hotline on +44 (0)7919 301 429