Health

Brazil adds to Covid-19 confusion with conflicting figures

Sao Paulo, Jun 8 (efe-epa).- The Brazilian government on Monday added to the local confusion surrounding the coronavirus crisis by presenting, within just a few hours, disparate figures regarding Covid-19 cases and deaths, a controversy that came as authorities decided to omit consolidated data regarding the pandemic.

The Health Ministry reported Sunday night that 1,382 Covid-19 patients had died and 12,581 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, but shortly thereafter it presented a new tally in which it reported 525 deaths ant 18,912 new cases.

In a statement released on Monday, the ministry said that the latest bulletin “corrected duplications and updated the figures” on the coronavirus in Brazil, which so far officially has detected 691,758 coronavirus cases and suffered 36,455 deaths, compared to the 685,427 cases and 37,312 deaths reported earlier in the day.

The different totals increased pressure on the government and stirred up additional criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro, who over the weekend had been accused of ordering an “information blackout” after removing from the government Web page the caseload and death totals, publishing there instead the figures for just the past 24 hours, which of course are far lower.

To that may be added the decision of the Health Ministry to delay until 10 pm the publication of the latest figures, three hours later than they are normally released, a move that some sectors have claimed is an attempt to hide the true nature of the coronavirus crisis in the country with the second highest number of cases, after the United States.

Amid the controversy, the head of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, on Monday harshly charged the government with “playing with death” by changing the methodology being used to release figures in the health crisis.

Maia, who in his capacity as head of the lower house of Parliament would be the official who could launch potential impeachment proceedings against the ultrarightist Bolsonaro, urged the Health Ministry to divulge the numbers in all seriousness, with respect for the Brazilian people and according to an appropriate schedule, and he went on to insist that “the credibility of the statistics be recovered.”

“Playing with death is perverse. In altering the numbers, the Health Ministry is trying to pull the wool over our eyes,” Maia said in a public message posted on the social networks on Monday morning.

On Saturday, Maia had called on the President’s Office to ensure that the government returns to the initial format for releasing coronavirus data, while the External Committee of the Chamber of Deputies requested that virus figures be delivered to the legislative branch in real time.

The Health Ministry, meanwhile, said that in the coming days the figures will be made available on an interactive Web page that “will allow the dynamics of the information in the country to be followed with greater precision and action by the authorities to be adjusted.”

Amid the controversy, the World Health Organization, which receives on a daily basis from the Brazilian government the most important figures linked to the evolution of the pandemic, said on Monday that it is confident that the country will continue communicating its figures in a “coherent and transparent” manner.

WHO Health Emergencies Department director Mike Ryan said that all information provided by Brazilian authorities must be congruent, including that provided to the WHO, which Bolsonaro has accused of having an “ideological bias” and from which the Brazilian leader had threatened to withdraw the country.

The public, he added, needs to understand what is happening, must know where the virus is to be found in Brazil and how the risks can be managed.

Given the divergent data and omissions on the part of the Brazilian government, the country’s main media outlets – Globo, Folha de Sao Paulo, Estado de Sao Paulo and Extra, as well as the G1 and UOL Web pages – announced Monday an unprecedented alliance to jointly gather and make public Covid-19 figures.

“The federal government, via the Health Ministry, should be the natural source of those numbers, but the recent attitudes of the authorities and the president himself call into question the availability of the figures and their precision,” said the media outlets in a jointly released statement.

Simultaneously, the top government health officials in Brazil’s 27 states joined forces to obtain the figures, an initiative that is also being participated in by scientists with assorted Brazilian universities.

EFE

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