Update 10/06/2020: Brazil has now restored the website that lists the full data on Covid-19 in the country after it was ordered to do so by the Supreme Court, Brazilian media TV Globo reports.
Brazil's government has deleted months worth of data from the official website that logs Covid-19 cases, leaving many in the country to accuse the government of authoritarian censorship. Meanwhile, the country is facing the second-largest Covid-19 outbreak in the world with over 691,758 confirmed cases, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
On Friday evening, Brazil’s Health Ministry removed the data from a live website that had logged the outbreak over time and by locality, reports Reuters. It was replaced over the weekend with a new portal that contains significantly less data, only revealing the number of deaths, cases, and recoveries within the last 24 hours.
Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right populist president who reportedly ordered the removal himself, defended the actions on social media, tweeting: "The cumulative data... did not reflect the moment the country is in."
The move has been widely criticized by scientists, medical associations, journalists, and members of Congress, all who argue it’s a clear attempt to control and manage information. Many have also suggested the new data doesn’t add up and contains inconsistencies.
"The manipulation of statistics is a maneuver of totalitarian regimes,” tweeted Gilmar Mendes, a Brazilian supreme court judge. "The trick will not exempt responsibility for the eventual genocide."
"The authoritarian, insensitive, inhuman and unethical attempt to make Covid-19 invisible to the dead will not succeed," Alberto Beltrame, President of the National Council of Health Secretaries (CONASS), said in a statement. "It offends officials, doctors, and all health professionals who have tirelessly dedicated themselves to saving lives."
While the number of Covid-19 cases in Brazil continues to skyrocket, Bolsonaro is pushing for the lifting of lockdown measures and says the economic costs outweigh the risk to public health. In an overtly Trumpian move, Bolsonaro also threatened on Friday to pull Brazil out of the World Health Organization (WHO), accusing it of being a "partisan political organization" after the UN agency warned Latin American governments about the risk of lifting lockdowns.
Brazil currently doesn’t have a health minster having lost their last two due to resignations since the pandemic began. The interim health minister is Eduardo Pazuello, a military general with zero experience in the field of healthcare or medicine. A former army captain himself, Bolsonaro has filled his political frontline with a number of top military officials.
President Bolsonaro had previously dismissed Covid-19 as a “little flu,” but the country has since become engulfed in one of the most severe outbreaks in the world, facing the second-highest number of confirmed cases after the US and the third-highest death rate after the US and the UK.