Brazil seeks clarification of COVID-19 data with rising curve, 38K deaths

Brasilia, Jun 9 (efe-epa).- The Brazilian government on Tuesday attempted to cut through the confusion and lack of confidence created by its new method of releasing data on Covid-19, which has killed almost 38,000 people in the South American giant amid the ongoing government efforts to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic.

“Our government is one of transparency, we’re not afraid of the truth,” said President Jair Bolsonaro during a meeting with cabinet ministers broadcast live and at which the participants discussed the controversies that have arisen in recent days regarding the changes in the way his administration is reporting confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths, the current figures for which stand at 707,000 and 37,100, respectively.

The change surprised Brazilians over the weekend and the daily bulletins went from reporting the totals in both categories to only divulging the daily totals, excluding altogether the macro figures, which huge political sectors feel is an attempt to hide or cover up the true situation.

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, an army general who is serving in an interim capacity in the health post after his two predecessors left the position over the past two months, tried to explain the changes and the lack of consolidated figures both at the meeting and in an appearance before a parliamentary committee.

Although he admitted to the change in the tallying methodology, he said that this was intended to provide figures as of the true date of death and not the date on which Covid-19 was confirmed to be the cause of the person’s demise, as earlier had been the case.

In this way, the minister said, the “real data” would be presented and would not be added to the deaths from days that had occurred previously but were only being reported as due to Covid-19 on the reporting date.

In the face of general criticism from lawmakers at the committee hearing, Pazuello tried to justify the new model, saying that it will be “more effective for the (health) managers,” but he added that the figures also will be provided according to the previous format to give “the greatest possible transparency.”

He did not mention it, but move to once again release the data in the same way that had been the case up until the end of last week was also the result of a judicial ruling, which came in the form of a cautionary decision by Supreme Court Magistrate Alexandre de Moraes.

According to that decision, rendered on Tuesday, each day the government must divulge the total figures to date in the pandemic, as was the method used in the past.

The cautionary ruling came in response to a move by three opposition parties and stated that the public release of all relevant data is “indispensible within the public administration,” both from the constitutional point of view and also due to the “seriousness of the (health) emergency.”

On Monday, high court Chief Justice Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli had added his voice to the growing public unease over the new data presentation method in a harsh pronouncement during a meeting of the Association of Magistrates.

In a direct reference to Bolsonaro, Dias Toffoli said that the government “cannot (engage in) any further doubtful attitudes” that “shock and frighten Brazilian society” and “the international community” and must act with “peace, prudence and unity in the fight against Covid-19.”

Amid the controversy stirred up by the data reporting method, local and municipal governments continue to move forward with their plans to resume economic activities, these moves being very much supported by Bolsonaro over the past couple of months, although the peak in the infection and fatality curves still appears to be far away, those curves still being sharply on the rise all over the country.

One of the regions that is moving toward reopening its economy is Sao Paulo state, Brazil’s heavily populated economic and financial engine and also the state hardest hit by the pandemic.

Sao Paulo city, the state capital, announced that starting on Wednesday it will allow street vendors to resume their activities and on Thursday shopping centers will be able to reopen with curtailed schedules, provided that they adhere to rigorous protection and prevention measures to avoid new infections.

Even so, Sao Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas has admitted that the authorities so far have been unable to limit the number of passengers who board local buses, which for days have been circulating around the city completely full despite the health risk for riders and drivers that this implies.


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