The move was reportedly ordered by the country’s President Jair Bolsonaro.
Brazil currently has the world’s second-highest number of cases, at 672,846, according to the John Hopkins university site, and has overtaken Italy, with 35,930 deaths. John Hopkins removed Brazil from its global count on Saturday but later reinstated it.
The Guardian reports that on Friday the government stopped releasing the cumulative numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases and obits in its daily bulletin and only supplied daily numbers.
The move was widely criticised across Brazilian society, with doctors, medical associations and state governors attacking what they called an attempt to control information. Federal prosecutors announced an investigation on Saturday and gave the interim health minister 72 hours to explain the move, using the Brazilian constitution and freedom of information law as justification.
“The manipulation of statistics is a manoeuvre of totalitarian regimes,” tweeted Gilmar Mendes, a supreme court judge. “The trick will not exempt responsibility for the eventual genocide.” Rodrigo Maia, speaker of the lower house of Congress, called for the data to be replaced for “transparency”.
“You can’t face a pandemic without science, transparency and action,” Paulo Câmara, governor of the north-eastern state of Pernambuco, posted on Instagram. “Manipulation, omission and disrespect are the striking marks of authoritarian administrations. But this won’t destroy the effort of the whole nation. We will continue producing, systematising and releasing the data.”
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