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Patients Airlifted as COVID Cases Surge in Brazil's Amazon

COVID-19 patients are treated inside a non-invasive ventilation system named the 'Vanessa Capsule' at the municipal field hospital Gilberto Novaes in Manaus, Brazil, Monday, May 18, 2020.

The novel coronavirus is spreading so rapidly among indigenous people in the outskirts of Brazil's Amazon that doctors are now evacuating critical COVID-19 patients by plane.

Doctor Daniel Siqueira said Monday two planes are going out daily, one for normal patients and the other for COVID patients. He said airlifts for COVID patients account for 60% of the removals.

Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples’ Articulation (APIB), the country's main tribal organization, said the vast majority of the 540 COVID-19 cases among dozens of tribes has hit the Manaus area the hardest.

The mayor of Manaus, Arthur Virgilio Neto, said because much of the interior Amazon is underdeveloped, people in those areas are trying to get to Manaus. He said he expects there will be a new wave of crowded hospitals and fights for vacancies.

The Brazilian government's indigenous health service, Sesai, reported on Monday at least 23 indigenous people have died from COVID-19.

The victims were in a remote area of the Amazon river bordering Colombia and Peru.

Brazil has confirmed 255-thousand COVID cases and 16,856 deaths.