Brazil removed months of data on its COVID-19 epidemic from public on Saturday when President Jair Bolsonaro defended delays and changes in the official record of the world's second largest coronavirus outbreak.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health removed the data from a website that documented the epidemic over time, as well as by state and community. The ministry also failed to report a total number of confirmed cases that exceeded 6,72,000 – more than anywhere outside the United States – or a total number of deaths that passed Italy this week and were approaching 36,000 by Saturday.
"The cumulative data … does not reflect the moment the country is in," Bolsonaro said on Twitter, citing a ministry note. "Further measures are underway to improve the reporting of cases and the confirmation of diagnoses."
Bolsonaro has downplayed the dangers of the pandemic, replaced medical officials in the Ministry of Health with military officials, spoken out against state locks to fight the virus and hampered the country's response to public health.
Neither Bolsonaro nor the Ministry gave a reason to delete most of the data on the covid.saude.gov.br website, which had been an important public resource for the pandemic's persecution. The page was removed on Friday and reloaded on Saturday with a new layout and only a fraction of the data, which only reflects deaths, cases and restores within the past 24 hours.
Late Saturday, the ministry reported 27,075 confirmed new infections and 904 deaths since its update on Friday.
The government has criticized this week for pushing back the publication of its daily balance sheet, which was previously available around 5 p.m. but was released around 10 p.m. in the past few days.
"Transparency of information is an effective tool to fight the epidemic," wrote Paulo Jeronimo de Sousa, head of the Brazilian press association, in a note accusing the government of "trying to silence the press at this late hour." bring ".
When asked about the late release by journalists on Friday, Bolsonaro pinned the nation's most watched news program, Jornal Nacional, which starts at 8:30 p.m.
"There is the story for Jornal Nacional," he joked, adding that the show "likes to say that Brazil has the death record."
Brazil reported more new cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any other country on four consecutive days this week.
Bolsonaro tweeted on Saturday that a later daily update would "avoid un-notification and inconsistencies".
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)