Brazil expunges virus death toll as data befuddles experts
June 9, 2020 / Associated Press
Brazil’s government has stopped publishing a running total of coronavirus deaths and infections in an extraordinary move that critics call an attempt to hide the true toll of the disease in Latin America’s largest nation.
Saturday’s move came after months of criticism from experts that Brazil’s statistics are woefully deficient, and in some cases manipulated, so it may never be possible to understand the depth of the pandemic in the country.
Brazil’s last official numbers showed it had recorded over 34,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, the third-highest number in the world, just ahead of Italy. It reported nearly 615,000 infections, putting it second, behind the United States. Brazil, with about 210 million people, is the globe’s seventh most populous nation.
On Friday, the federal Health Ministry took down a website that had showed daily, weekly and monthly figures on infections and deaths in Brazilian states. On Saturday, the site returned but the cumulative numbers of infections for states and the nation were no longer there. The site now shows only the numbers for the previous 24 hours.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted Saturday that disease totals are “not representative” of the country’s current situation. Public prosecutors announced an investigation into the Health Ministry’s justification for the change.