Hospitals across the jungle city of Manaus, Brazil, were reported to have run out of oxygen early last year, sending Covid-19 death rates and case numbers soaring.

Commenting on lessons learned during the country’s health crisis, Newton de Oliveira, President of IBG – the only Brazilian company in the air gases sector – spoke with gasworld. 

“The main city affected in Brazil was Manaus,” he began. 

“It’s like an island surrounded by the jungle. You cannot go by road because it’s almost impossible to drive there.” 

The city originally consumed 14,000m3 of oxygen per day, production was twice that. During the worst of the pandemic, the consumption jumped to 100,000m3 cubic metres per day. 

Logistical issues affected the ability for companies to provide oxygen solutions to Manaus, compounding the oxygen availability issues. 

During the crisis, IBG had an industrial gas plant on standby. By switching on the plant, it was able to supply customers with additional gases. 

Lessons learned 

“This pandemic was underestimated by everybody,” remarked de Oliveira. 

“Companies must be aware of what is happening in the local and global market and assess the consequences by drawing up a contingency plan.” 

Due to the isolated nature of Manaus, de Oliveira suggested that the city should have a higher capacity of medical oxygen production available. 

Pointing to a lack of planning by the private sector and the government, logistical issues caused by deep-set infrastructure problems was compounded by slow decision making and indecisiveness among leaders. 

To help facilitate oxygen supply in the region, IBG supplied Manaus with ISO containers containing medical oxygen, transported using planes supplied by the Brazilian air force. 

The weakest link 

Pinpointing the weakest link in the oxygen supply chain, de Oliveira identified areas that need improvement for future crises.

“I think the weakest point was companies and the government, they underestimated the crisis.” 

“Even Manaus being an island, if companies took the crisis seriously, they could have prevented deaths.” 

“Nobody believed that this virus could have affected so many people,” he concluded.