An emergency shipment of sedatives needed to intubate severely ill COVID-19 patients arrived in Brazil late on Thursday from China, as the South American country scrambles for supplies due to severe shortages of the vital drugs.

In recent days, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have both sounded the alarm over shortages of sedatives, with Sao Paulo’s Health Secretary saying the city’s ability to care for seriously ill COVID-19 patients is on the verge of collapse.

Brazil has become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more Brazilians dying of the virus each day than anywhere else in the world.

President Jair Bolsonaro has opposed lockdowns and held large events in which he often does not wear a mask. He has only recently embraced vaccines as a possible solution.

The cargo of 2.3 million drugs, donated by major Brazilian companies including miner Vale and oil producer Petrobras, touched down in Sao Paulo just after 10 p.m. local time.

As the health crisis worsens, Brazil is also negotiating with other countries for emergency supplies, with donations from Spain expected to arrive next week.

Brazil has recorded a total of 365,444 coronavirus deaths – second only to the United States – and 13,746,681 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

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