Venezuela dispatches oxygen for Brazil’s Amazonas, reeling from COVID-19

© Reuters/MANAURE QUINTERO FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro holds a press conference in Caracas

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday that a convoy of trucks carrying emergency oxygen supplies for Brazil’s northern Amazonas state, where a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic has hit hard, has departed and is set to arrive at the border by Monday morning.

Reading from a message sent by Justo Noguera, governor of Venezuela’s southern Bolivar state, Maduro said during a state television appearance that the six trucks would arrive at the Santa Elena de Uairen border crossing by morning, where they would be handed over to Brazilian health authorities.

From there, the trucks – carrying some 136,000 liters of oxygen, enough to fill 14,000 individual canisters – would take 14 hours to arrive in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas, whose hospital system is collapsing due to the pandemic.

“If anything should come first among us Christians in this moment, it is solidarity,” said Maduro, a socialist who has had a tense relationship with Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. “The Brazilian people should know that we are willing to help Brazil as much as we can, and even more.”

Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd and Britain’s AstraZenaca, as Bolsonaro – a coronavirus skeptic who has refused to take a vaccine himself – has come under fire for his handling of the crisis.

Maduro referred to the situation in Manaus as “Bolsonaro’s health disaster.”

(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Caracas and Luc Cohen in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)