Brazil takes down COVID-19 data, hiding soaring death toll

Brazil takes down COVID-19 data, hiding soaring death toll
epa08471936 Protesters continue the protest against the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro defending democracy, and condemning racism and fascism, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 07 June 2020. After the riots last Sunday, several demonstrations for and against the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, were held again this Sunday without records of serious incidents, according to the latest data available at 19:30 GMT. The protests, which did not have the official support of parties with parliamentary representation, caused major crowds in several cities of the country as Brazil is experiencing an aggravation of the coronavirus pandemic. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIAO MOREIRA

SAO PAULO, June 6 (Reuters) - Brazil removed from public view months of data on its COVID-19 epidemic on Saturday, as President Jair Bolsonaro defended delays and changes to official record-keeping of the world's second-largest coronavirus outbreak.

Brazil’s Health Ministry removed the data from a website
that had documented the epidemic over time and by state and
municipality. The ministry also stopped giving a total count of
confirmed cases, which have shot past 672,000 – more than
anywhere outside the United States – or a total death toll,
which passed Italy this week, nearing 36,000 by Saturday.

“The cumulative data … does not reflect the moment the
country is in,” Bolsonaro said on Twitter, citing a note from
the ministry. “Other actions are underway to improve the
reporting of cases and confirmation of diagnoses.”
Bolsonaro has played down the dangers of the pandemic,
replaced medical experts in the Health Ministry with military
officials and argued against state lockdowns to fight the virus,
hobbling the country’s public health response.

Neither Bolsonaro nor the ministry gave a reason for erasing
most of the data on the website, which had
been a key public resource for tracking the pandemic. The page
was taken down on Friday and reloaded Saturday with a new layout
and just a fraction of the data, reflecting only deaths, cases
and recoveries within the last 24 hours.

Late on Saturday, the ministry reported 27,075 new confirmed
infections and 904 related deaths since its Friday update.
The government drew criticism this week for pushing back the
release of its daily tally, previously available around 5 p.m.
but released in recent days near 10 p.m.

“Transparency of information is a powerful instrument for
combating the epidemic,” wrote Paulo Jeronimo de Sousa, head of
the Brazilian Press Association, in a note accusing the
government of “trying to silence the press at this late hour.”
Asked by journalists on Friday about the delayed release,
Bolsonaro needled the nation’s most-watched news program, Jornal
Nacional, which begins at 8:30 p.m.

“There goes the story for Jornal Nacional,” he joked, adding
that the show “likes to say Brazil has the record for deaths.”
Brazil reported more new cases and deaths from COVID-19 than
any other country on four consecutive days this week.
Bolsonaro tweeted on Saturday that a later daily update
would “avoid undernotification and inconsistencies.”

(Reporting by Ana Mano in Sao Paulo; Editing by Brad Haynes,
Matthew Lewis and Daniel Wallis)


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