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Brazil turns to local industry to build fans as orders in China drop

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BRAZIL (Reuters) – Brazil’s health minister said on Wednesday that the country’s attempts to buy thousands of fans from China to fight a growing coronavirus epidemic had failed and that the government was now turning to Brazilian companies for build the devices.

Brazilian Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta attends a press conference amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Brasilia, Brazil, April 7, 2020. REUTERS / Adriano Machado

“Almost all of our equipment purchases in China are unconfirmed,” said Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta at a press conference.

An attempt to buy 15,000 ventilators in China was unsuccessful and Brazil made a new offer, he said, but the outcome is uncertain in the intense competition for medical supplies in the global pandemic .

A positive sign for the tightening of supply in Brazil, a private company managed to buy 40 tonnes of protective masks in China, the cargo arriving by cargo plane in Brasilia on Wednesday.

The purchase of 6 million masks worth 160 million reais ($ 30 million) was made by the pharmaceutical and hospital equipment company Nutriex, based in Goiania, 220 kilometers east of Brasilia . The company plans to donate part of the order.

Health officials started sounding the alarm this week about supply shortages as hospitals faced an increasing number of patients with COVID-19.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the country climbed to 15,927 on Wednesday, with 133 dead in just 24 hours at 800, the ministry said.

Rio de Janeiro reported the first six deaths in four shantytowns in the city, called favelas, alarming authorities who fear rapid spread to overcrowded communities that have limited access to medical care and often lack running water for hygiene .

Two of the deaths occurred in Rocinha, one of the largest slums in South America where more than 100,000 people live.

Mandetta reported the first case of coronavirus among the Yanomami in the country’s largest reserve and said that the government plans to build a field hospital for indigenous tribes vulnerable to contagion.

“We are extremely concerned about the aboriginal communities,” said Mandetta.

Anthropologists and health experts warn that the epidemic can have a devastating impact on the 850,000 indigenous people of Brazil whose way of life in tribal villages excludes any social distancing.

President Jair Bolsonaro said in a speech to the nation that the antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, was saving the lives of coronavirus patients and should be used in the early stages of COVID-19. Due to the lack of scientific evidence of its effectiveness and safety, Brazilian health authorities limit its use to critically ill patients in hospital.

Mandetta said Brazil has hired Magnamed, a local manufacturer of unlisted medical equipment, to manufacture 6,000 ventilators in 90 days.

Pulp and paper companies Suzano SA and Klabin SA, planner Embraer SA, information technology supplier Positivo Tecnologia SA and automaker Fiat Chrysler have also offered to help build fans, he said. he declares.

Report by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia and Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Christopher Cushing

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