Peru suffering medical oxygen crunch amid Covid spike
Hundreds of Peruvians waited in long lines Saturday to get medical oxygen for loved ones with Covid-19, amid a shortage of the gas in the pandemic's second wave.
In San Juan de Lurigancho, a largely poor area just northeast of the capital, more than 200 people waited in front of a new plant opened by the San Marcos parish and the municipality of Lima, which provides free medical oxygen.
People had to show a medical order and a photocopy of the patient's identity document.
There was tight police surveillance at the plant, as in almost all medical oxygen sales spots around the country.
The first person in line had arrived Friday afternoon, sleeping on the street.
At the same time, local television showed a line of more than 70 vehicles -- including cars, vans, trucks, minibuses and motorcycle taxis -- on the side of a highway in the port city of Pisco, waiting to buy oxygen.
According to the government, the demand for medical oxygen grew by 200 percent in Peru with the second wave of Covid-19, which saw infections and deaths quadruple compared to rates in December.
Outside the Criogas company in Callao, the neighboring port city of Lima, people line up for up to four days for a refill.
Company owner Jose Luis Barsallo has established strict sales controls to cut out resellers and began refilling tanks only halfway to serve more people.
With 33 million people, Peru has about 1.3 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 44,690 deaths, according to official data.
Meanwhile, the government has been rocked by charges against some 500 government officials -- including former president Martin Vizcarra and top ministers -- accused of getting vaccinated ahead of their turn.
Police raided the health ministry and two university clinics on Friday as part of the investigation into what has been termed "Vacunagate."