Brazil approaching 300,000 COVID-19 deaths

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Brazil, the current epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, is on the verge of 300,000 COVID-19 deaths.

The scarcity of bottled oxygen and medicines for virus patients threatens to worsen the collapse the country is already experiencing due to the lack of beds in intensive care units.

The critical situation has the South American giant on the ropes, and besides the serious crisis in the health care system criticism remains about the Jair Bolsonaro government's disjointed response to the pandemic and in confronting the current wave of infections, which is significantly worse than the initial wave.

While some of Brazil's most populous states, including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, have adopted severe measures to try and limit infections, the ultra-right leader continues to deny the seriousness of the pandemic and has even gone to the Supreme Court to limit the powers of regional leaders in addressing the matter.

The high court on Tuesday rejected the president's motion, calling it "totalitarian," and ratified the decision it had already handed down last year that regional and local governments have the autonomous authority to impose restrictive measures against COVID whenever such measures are backed by a scientific committee.

Since January 17, when the first person was vaccinated against COVID in Brazil, some 14 million doses have been distributed, with about 6.6 per cent of the population receiving at least one dose.

Regarding the oxygen shortage, the ministry said that six states are concerned about the matter - Acre, Rondonia, Mato Grosso, Amapa, Ceara and Rio Grande do Norte.

The situation is also being watched closely in Sao Paulo, where the Prosecutor's Office is investigating the deaths of three people in the state capital after they were transported from a health centre where there was no oxygen available.

Sao Paulo, the country's economic engine with 46 million residents, has been the state hardest hit by the pandemic with more than 68,000 deaths and 2.3 million confirmed cases, and within the past 24 hours 1021 deaths were reported, almost double the daily record of 679 set just a week ago.

The exponential growth in infection, aggravated by the spread of new and more virulent variants of the virus, has resulted in Sao Paulo ICUs approaching maximum occupancy, with 92 per cent of the beds now taken.