Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Brazil resumes publication of coronavirus data after court order

Brazil’s website that publishes the full data on COVID-19 in the country has been restored following a Supreme Court order to do so.

The health ministry stopped releasing cumulative totals for confirmed cases and deaths in the country starting 6 June, and reported only cases and deaths that occurred in the last 24 hours. President Jair Bolsonaro said that the change in policy is a result of his administration’s actions in improving COVID-19 reporting – but that argument did not fly for many Brazilians and caused widespread public uproar.

Media outfits turned to alternative sources in publishing their own coronavirus figures. Critics accused the Bolsonaro government of manipulating the data. The country’s national council of state health secretaries called the move “authoritarian, insensitive, inhuman and unethical”.

Three political parties challenged the legality of the move and took the battle to the Supreme Court. Yesterday, Supreme Court justice Alexandre de Moraes responded with a ruling and gave the government 48 hours to release the full figures again.

The statement from Moraes required the health ministry to “fully reestablish the daily divulgation of epidemiological data on the COVID-19 pandemic” and included the website in the ruling. The high court justice emphasised the gravity of the coronavirus situation in Brazil and required all government agencies to “put into effect public health protection”.

He also warned that there will be “disastrous consequences for the population if internationally recognised measures are not adopted, such as the collection, analysis, storage and dissemination of relevant epidemiological data”.

Brazil has the second highest number of cases in the world with over 700,000 confirmed infections and more than 37,000 deaths. Despite the shocking numbers, Bolsonaro remains critical of the pandemic and the measures being taken against it. The Brazilian president has repeatedly called for the lifting of lockdown measures, citing the damage it will wreak on the economy. He has also accused local officials for using the crisis for political gain, as many of those who have imposed strict measures oppose his administration.

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