SAO PAULO • Brazil has removed from public view months of data on its Covid-19 pandemic, as President Jair Bolsonaro defended delays and changes to official record-keeping of the world’s second-largest coronavirus outbreak.
Brazil’s Health Ministry removed the data from a website that had documented the pandemic over time and by state and municipality.
The ministry also stopped giving a total count of confirmed cases, which have shot past 676,000 – more than anywhere outside the United States – or a total death toll, which passed Italy last week, crossing 36,000 last Saturday.
“The cumulative data… does not reflect the moment the country is in,” Mr Bolsonaro said on Twitter, citing a note from the ministry.
“Other actions are under way to improve the reporting of cases and confirmation of diagnoses.”
Mr Bolsonaro has played down the dangers of the pandemic, replaced medical experts in the Health Ministry with military officials and argued against state lockdowns to fight the virus, hobbling the country’s public health response.
“From a health perspective, it’s a tragedy,” former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said in a webcast last Saturday, likening it to an information blackout on a meningitis epidemic during the nation’s military regime. “Not giving out the information makes the state more harmful than the disease.”
Neither Mr Bolsonaro nor the ministry gave a reason for erasing most of the data on the covid.saude.gov.br website, which had been a key public resource for tracking the pandemic.
The page was taken down on Friday and reloaded the following day with a new layout and just a fraction of the data, reflecting only deaths, cases and recoveries within the last 24 hours.
Late on Saturday, the ministry reported 27,075 new confirmed infections and 904 related deaths since its Friday update.
The government drew criticism last week for pushing back the release of its daily tally, previously available around 5pm, but released in recent days near 10pm.
Brazil reported more new cases and deaths from Covid-19 than any other country on four consecutive days last week.
Mr Bolsonaro tweeted on Saturday that a later daily update would “avoid undernotification and inconsistencies”.