Brazil accused of manipulating coronavirus toll

10 Juin, 2020, 02:09 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Brazil accused of manipulating coronavirus toll

Despite recent spikes - including a record number of new daily cases shortly before the public data was pulled - President Jair Bolsonaro, a close political ally of U.S. President Trump, has continued to push local leaders to ease their coronavirus restrictions and reopen their economies.

Meanwhile, Federal prosecutors have announced an investigation into the decision to discontinue reporting and have given the country's interim health minister until Tuesday to explain why the decision was taken; a move done by using both the Brazilian constitution and its Freedom of Information law.

Gilmar Mendes, another Supreme Court justice, said on Saturday that manipulation of data is a tactic of authoritarian regimes and that hiding the numbers would not exempt the government from responsibility for the pandemic's heavy toll in Brazil.

In the midst of this controversy, the Health Ministry's decision to remove older numbers from its publicly available data was met over the weekend with protests from demonstrators and condemnations from medical experts who called the decision risky.

As of Sunday, June 7th, Brazil remained the second-most hit country by COVID-19 in the world according to Worldometer, with nearly 700,000 confirmed cases and over 36,000 deaths.

Last week it pushed back the release of the numbers late into the evening and past Brazil's main news programme.

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"This is a statistical coup d'etat", said newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, one of Brazil's most-read, in a scathing editorial.

It explained Monday that the previous day's figures had been corrected because some data supplied by state health officials included duplicates.

Bolsonaro has been criticized in Brazil and overseas for his lack of action in response to the pandemic.

Criticism over the data confusion only increased when well-known businessman Carlos Wizard, who had been tapped to serve as a top adviser in the health ministry, said Friday that the government's official figures to date were "fantastical and manipulated".

That outraged state health officials who supply the underlying data. Two health ministers have left the post since the outbreak began in disagreement with the president's handling of the pandemic. They accused the government of trying to make coronavirus victims "invisible".

But Brazil's true caseload may be far larger because of limited testing.

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