RIO DE JANEIRO – A Brazilian Supreme Court justice ordered the government of President Jair Bolsonaro to resume publication of full COVID-19 data, including the cumulative death toll, following allegations the government was trying to hide the severity of the pandemic in Latin America's biggest country.
The government complied with the decision Tuesday afternoon.
Justice Alexandre de Moraes said late Monday that the government is obliged to provide necessary information to Brazilian citizens, days after the Health Ministry scrubbed the cumulative death toll from the new coronavirus from its website. De Moraes said in his decision that the gravity of the pandemic, which has killed more than 38,400 Brazilians, requires transparency from the government as the country shapes policies to curb the virus.
Brazil’s health ministry stopped publishing the number of total COVID-19 deaths and confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday.
The restriction on the release of data, combined with its announcement after evening news programs had ended, generated widespread criticism. Gilmar Mendes, another Supreme Court justice, said Saturday that manipulation of data is a tactic of authoritarian regimes and that hiding the numbers wouldn’t exempt the government from responsibility for the pandemic's heavy toll in Brazil.
Facing intense criticism, a top Health Ministry official told reporters Monday night that the ministry would restore the cumulative death toll to its website, but with changes to the methodology for how daily deaths are tallied.