oxygen tank for COVID-19 patients

The images of the drama in Mexico: getting an oxygen tank for COVID-19 patients is a way of the cross

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An employee of the Infra Medica company that supplies oxygen distributes tanks of people who come to buy in Mexico City.

Due to the outbreak of the pandemic, “the demand for oxygen it grew 700% in the last month, ”Jesús Montaño, from the Federal Consumer Prosecutor’s Office, told AFP.

At the same time, fraud and speculation on social networks have increased, where “exorbitant prices” are charged.

Although the government enabled free outlets of oxygen, “The big problem is the lack of tanks. There is no way to take it, ”said Montaño.

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Mexico City, January 22, 2021. (RODRIGO ARANGUA /)

On a street in the west of Ciudad de Mexico, dozens of people buy oxygen for your relatives sick with covid-19. They stand in line for up to five hours for a recharge that, in some cases, only lasts 60 minutes.

Resigned, they advance to the door of a private company, where an employee collects the tanks to mark them with the customer’s name.

“Alert, alert, we are in an emergency due to covid!”, Repeats in front of the line, at full volume, a recording broadcast through the loudspeaker of a police patrol.

MEXICO - COVID19 - CORONAVIRUS - 25012021 - oxygen
Mexico City, January 22, 2021.

Eduardo Martínez, a 33-year-old biochemist, knows this very well, in line for an hour to fill the tank of his mother, diagnosed with the new coronavirus last Tuesday.

Anticipating the bill that the end-of-year excesses would pass – from which his family assures he remained on the sidelines – Martínez had already bought a cylinder in advance and kept the money for the Christmas bonuses.

“Fortunately I didn’t buy anything in December,” he told AFP. Thus, it was able to pay the 3,500 pesos ($ 175) that the PCR test cost for the 55-year-old woman, who remains at home.

MEXICO - COVID19 - CORONAVIRUS - 25012021 - oxygen
Mexico City, January 22, 2021
Villagers carry oxygen tanks for their relatives who are sick with COVID-19, as part of the free recharge program of the government of Mexico City, in the municipality of Iztapalapa. Mexico, January 18, 2021.
Villagers carry oxygen tanks for their relatives who are sick with COVID-19, as part of the free recharge program of the government of Mexico City, in the municipality of Iztapalapa. Mexico, January 18, 2021.
Iztapalapa, from Mexico City, Mexico. January 18, 2021.
Iztapalapa, from Mexico City, Mexico. January 18, 2021. (TOYA SARNO JORDAN /)
A man walks through a disinfection chamber while carrying oxygen tanks for his relatives infected with the coronavirus disease, as part of a city government's free recharge program, in the municipality of Iztapalapa, in Mexico City, Mexico 18 January 2021.
A man walks through a disinfection chamber while carrying oxygen tanks for his relatives infected with the coronavirus disease, as part of a city government’s free recharge program, in the municipality of Iztapalapa, in Mexico City, Mexico 18 January 2021. (TOYA SARNO JORDAN /)
Iztapalapa, in Mexico City, Mexico, January 18, 2021.
Iztapalapa, in Mexico City, Mexico, January 18, 2021. (TOYA SARNO JORDAN /)

Despite the care, Martínez maintains that the virus had been haunting his neighborhood, where two neighbors recently died. “Where we live people are very reckless, stupid, they don’t wear masks. It’s worth it! ”.

Iztapalapa, in Mexico City, Mexico, January 18, 2021.
Iztapalapa, in Mexico City, Mexico, January 18, 2021. (TOYA SARNO JORDAN /)

A few positions away from him, Ileana Ruiz seeks oxygen so that his uncle can resist the transfer from a public hospital – where he does not feel well cared for – to a private clinic.

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People queue to recharge the oxygen tanks of their relatives infected with COVID-19, due to the shortage of medical gas after an increase in cases of coronavirus, in Guadalajara, State of Jalisco, Mexico on January 17, 2021. (ULISES RUIZ /)

They will do it by private car because “there are no ambulances,” says this 23-year-old medical student, who has not been able to attend her virtual classes for four days because she is looking for medicine and, now, oxygen.

“We estimate that it will last an hour, what is necessary for the transfer,” said the young woman, who must pay 200 pesos (10 dollars) to refill the smaller tank.

oxygen - CDMX - MEXICO - 18012021
Guadalajara, State of Jalisco, Mexico on January 17, 2021. (ULISES RUIZ /)
oxygen - CDMX - MEXICO - 18012021
Guadalajara, State of Jalisco, Mexico on January 17, 2021. (ULISES RUIZ /)
oxygen - CDMX - MEXICO - 18012021
Guadalajara, State of Jalisco, Mexico on January 17, 2021. (ULISES RUIZ /)
Oxygen shortage leads to long lines and higher prices in Mexico
Izatapalapa, Mexico City. January 8, 2021. (José Pazos /)
A man carries two oxygen tanks after filling them for a family member infected with the coronavirus disease, near a free rechargeable oxygen post provided by the government in Mexico City, Mexico, on January 6, 2021.
A man carries two oxygen tanks after filling them for a family member infected with the coronavirus disease, near a free rechargeable oxygen station provided by the government in Mexico City, Mexico, on January 6, 2021. (CARLOS JASSO /)
Mexico City, Mexico, on January 6, 2021.
Mexico City, Mexico, on January 6, 2021. (CARLOS JASSO /)
Mexico City, Mexico, on January 6, 2021.
Mexico City, Mexico, on January 6, 2021. (CARLOS JASSO /)
A man queues to fill an oxygen tank outside a medical supply store in Mexico City, December 21, 2020.
A man queues to fill an oxygen tank outside a medical supply store in Mexico City, December 21, 2020. (EDGARD GARRIDO /)
Mexico City. January 6, 2021.

Ben Oakley
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