Controversy swirls in Brazil over Covid-19 reporting

Recife, Brazil, Jun 8 (efe-epa).- Brazil’s government is facing fresh criticism after the release Monday of amended Covid-19 figures showed fewer coronavirus-related deaths and more confirmed cases than initial reports had indicated.

After reporting on Sunday night that 1,382 people had died and 12,581 people had newly tested positive over the most recent 24-hour period, the Health Ministry amended those figures and reported on Monday morning that the real number of new deaths and confirmed cases totaled 525 and 18,912, respectively.

That correction meant that the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil rose from 685,427 to 691,758, while the official number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 fell from 37,312 to 36,455.

Delays in reporting and a lack of consolidated data on the pandemic in Brazil have sparked sharp criticism from members of the nation’s political class, judicial authorities and the media, who have slammed the new method used since last Friday by President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration to record deaths and infections.

Brazil currently ranks second behind only the United States in confirmed coronavirus cases and third behind the US and the United Kingdom in Covid-19-related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

After the number of deaths hit a new record on three consecutive days and reached a peak of 1,473 deaths last Thursday, Bolsonaro’s government on Friday began pushing back the release of official data.

The Health Ministry started publishing its latest figures at 10 pm instead of 7 pm, saying that change was necessary to avoid “underreporting” and “inconsistencies” in the daily numbers provided by Brazil’s 26 states and the federal district.

A message on the ministry’s platform for divulging coronavirus data, meanwhile, indicated for nearly 24 hours on Saturday that it was “under maintenance,” an interruption that led Johns Hopkins’ website to leave Brazil temporarily out of its statistics.

Amid widespread criticism, the government on Sunday released the latest figures an hour ahead of schedule but then corrected them hours later.

In a televised debate Sunday, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso slammed the government’s data-reporting approach as “ridiculous” and said it will not be possible to “hide data forever.”

Two other participants in that debate, former presidential candidates Marina Silva and Ciro Gomes, echoed those sentiments.

The speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, Rodrigo Maia, on Saturday called on Bolsonaro’s administration to return to its previous data-reporting format, while the lower house’s External Commission sent a letter of protest to Congress demanding that the coronavirus figures be delivered to the legislative branch in real time.

The federal Attorney General’s Office, for its part, has given the interim health minister, Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, 72 hours to explain and present the administrative act underpinning the modification. EFE-EPA


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