• Monday, Aug 10, 2020
  • Last Update : 11:41 am

Brazil accused of manipulating coronavirus toll

  • Published at 04:30 pm June 9th, 2020
Brazil-coronavirus
File Photo: Gravediggers wearing protective suits bury the coffin of 48-years-old man, who died from the coronavirus, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 4, 2020 Reuters

Even as infections soar in Brazil, the latest epicenter in the pandemic, the health ministry has made a series of unusual moves on how it presents the numbers on Covid-19

Critics are accusing President Jair Bolsonaro of manipulating the figures showing the spiraling coronavirus death toll in Brazil, after his government first stopped reporting the total number of fatalities and infections, and then released conflicting data.

Even as infections soar in Brazil, the latest epicenter in the pandemic, the health ministry has made a series of unusual moves on how it presents the numbers on Covid-19.

The ministry had been the most widely used source for nationwide virus statistics, which paint a grim picture of its impact on Brazil: officially, 37,134 deaths, the third-highest toll in the world, after the United States and Britain; and 707,412 infections, the second-highest caseload, after the US.

Last week, the ministry postponed its daily tally of infections and deaths by around two and a half hours, to just before 10:00pm, local time.

Critics accused the government of doing that to dodge negative coverage on "Jornal Nacional," a popular evening news program on Globo TV, Brazil's biggest broadcaster.

Bolsonaro himself appeared to confirm as much when asked about the delay.

"That's the end of that story for 'Jornal Nacional,'" the far-right president said.

Then the ministry stopped publishing the total number of deaths and infections, releasing only the figures for the past 24 hours for the country of 212 million people.

'Statistical coup d'etat' 

Things only got more muddled on Sunday, when the ministry released two different daily tolls, without initially explaining why or indicating which was correct.

It explained Monday that the previous day's figures had been corrected because some data supplied by state health officials included duplicates.

It also said it had adopted a new methodology, with a new website, where victims will be counted under the day they died, rather than the day that posthumous testing confirmed a COVID-19 diagnosis.

"There are cases where lab results are for deaths that occurred weeks ago," it said in a statement.

"The curve by date of death... helps understand the dynamic of the disease and how the authorities need to concentrate their efforts."

It also moved the daily update back up to 6:00 pm.

But critics have been brutal.

"This is a statistical coup d'etat," said newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, one of Brazil's most-read, in a scathing editorial.

"Manipulating the number of dead in a pandemic is a crime," said influential columnist Miriam Leitao in newspaper Globo.

Top media groups, including Folha and Globo, announced they were teaming up to release their own daily figures based on data collected directly from state health officials.

Already, their toll diverges from the official one, with 178 more deaths and 3,475 more infections.

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