Brazil hides coronavirus death data, Bolsonaro accused of censorship
- Brazil deleted months of COVID-19 data from its official tracker, prompting accusations of a cover-up by Jair Bolsonaro.
- The health ministry's Coronavirus Panel used to show death and infection totals, with breakdowns for each state. On Friday, it was replaced with one showing only new cases by state in the last 24 hours.
- Bolsonaro said on Facebook that the old website used data that was "not representative" of the current situation.
- Brazil is now the epicentre of the world's coronavirus outbreak, experiencing record-high daily death tolls last week. Only the US has more cases.
- Gilmar Mendez, a justice at Brazil's supreme court, said: "The manipulation of statistics is a maneuver of totalitarian regimes."
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Brazil deleted months of data from its official COVID-19 tracker, prompting president Jair Bolsonaro to be accused of censorship.
The previous version of the website showed the cumulative national tally of deaths and infections, and granular data for each of Brazil's 27 states and municipalities.
The new version showed only new deaths and cases recorded over the last 24 hours at state level, with no national tally.
Bolsonaro wrote on his personal Facebook page that the old website used data that was "not representative" and that the new version will "allow for more accurate data on the situation."
"The disclosure of 24-hour data lets you monitor the reality of the country right now, and define appropriate strategies to help the population," he said.
Several high-profile figures accused Bolsonaro of twisting the narrative - something he has done before.
"The manipulation of statistics is a maneuver of totalitarian regimes," Gilmar Mendez, a justice at Brazil's supreme court, wrote on Twitter. "The trick will not exempt responsibility for the eventual genocide."
Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the minister for health fired by Bolsonaro in April, said on Saturday: "From the point of view of health it is very bad. It is a tragedy what we are seeing, the dismantling of information."
The update to the website came at the end of what was Brazil's worst week so far.
The country logged a record 1,262 deaths on Tuesday, only to be bested a day later when 1,349 new fatalities were reported.
Regardless, the country has moved ahead with reopening some services.Non-essential stores, public beaches, and venues like churches in major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo were permitted to open from Tuesday.
On Thursday, Wilson Witzel, the governor of Rio de Janeiro, signed a decree allowing the bars, restaurants, and shopping malls to open.
Throughout the pandemic, Bolsonaro has shown disdain for the virus and played down the danger.
In March, he called the virus a "little flu" and on Tuesday said: "We are sorry for all the dead, but that's everyone's destiny."
The state of Amazonas, in the north of the country, is the worst hit, containing 12 out of the 20 cities with the highest mortality rate. Experts have warned that Brazil's indigenous populations may face cataclysmic issues if nothing is done to help them.
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