Peru’s largest Amazon city, Iquitos, is appearing to be the most severely hit part of the nation as its already poor healthcare system, compromised by an earlier dengue fever outbreak and the constant poverty, is currently overwhelmed with the pandemic raging in the city.

They have already run out of oxygen cylinders, which in turn has spiked the black market price of a cylinder beyond $1,000 (£810)- a price not everyone can afford. 

Already, the city’s main public hospital, with a capacity of 18-0 beds, is treating five times the number of patients of which many have died from a lack of oxygen and medical supplies. As per recent reports, the number of positive coronavirus cases in Iquitos is close to 1600 and the death toll has crossed 60. 

The fact that Iquitos, surrounded by forests, is the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road makes it impossible for aid to reach it via road and is entirely dependent on intermittent air deliveries of medicine, personal protective equipment, as well as oxygen.  After the pandemic hit the Amazon city, Manaus in Brazil, still reeling from the effects, Iquitos is now the second major Amazon city that is staggering under the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are living in a catastrophe,” said Graciela Meza, executive director of the regional health office in Loreto Region. 

Peru currently has 58,526 cases of coronavirus and the 1627 people dead from the pandemic, closely following the rising number of cases and death toll in Brazil. Masses have aired their outrage at the slow response of the regional government to address the shortage of supplies as well as put a stop to private companies who are making a profit by deliberately selling oxygen tanks at a very high price. 

Peru’s health minister, Víctor Zamora, who visited Iquitos on May 4 has promised that medical supplies and oxygen from Lima to Iquitos will be provided via daily flights. He also addressed the fact that more than a dozen doctors have been infected with COVID-19, thus creating a shortage of medical professionals as well, and pledged to replenish this as well. 

He also assured that two new oxygen plants will be created within weeks in Iquitos, to fulfill its growing need for oxygen tanks. 

Coronavirus COVID 19 Italy People wear face masks wait at the Termini Central Station during the Coronavirus emergency, on March 9, 2020 in Rome, Italy. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the closure of the Italian region of Lombardy in an attempt to stop the ongoing coronavirus epidemic in the Italian country. The number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus COVID-19 disease in Italy has jumped up to at least 6387, while the death toll has surpassed 366. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images) Antonio Masiello/Getty Images