Brazil has already recorded more than 35,000 coronavirus-related deaths
Brazil has removed months of data on Covid-19 from a government website amid criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the outbreak.
The health ministry said it would now only be reporting cases and deaths in the past 24 hours, no longer giving a total figure as most countries do.
Mr Bolsonaro said the cumulative data did not reflect the current picture.
Brazil has the world’s second-highest number of cases, and has recently had more new deaths than any other nation.
The Latin American country has more than 640,000 confirmed infections, but the number is believed to be much higher because of insufficient testing. More than 35,000 people have died, the third-highest toll in the world.
The far-right leader has been criticised for rejecting lockdown measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and, on Friday, threatened to pull out of the body, accusing it of being a “partisan political organisation”.
The president has repeatedly joined supporters in protests in recent months, ignoring social-distancing advice.
What did Brazil’s authorities say?
On Saturday, the health ministry removed from its official website the Covid-19 data it had been documenting over time and by state and municipality.
Instead, the ministry only stated that there were 27,075 new cases and 904 deaths in the past 24 hours. It also said that 10,209 patients had recovered.
On Twitter, Mr Bolsonaro said “the cumulative data… does not reflect the moment the country is in” but did not explain why the information had to be removed or could not be released. He said additional measures were being taken to “improve the reporting of cases”.
The decision has been widely criticised by journalists and members of Congress. The removal of the data happened after Brazil reported more than 1,000 deaths for four consecutive days.
Banner image reading ‘more about coronavirus’BannerWhat is the situation in Brazil?
The number of confirmed cases is fewer only than in the US, and infections are expected to rise even further as the outbreak is still weeks away from its peak, health experts say.
Last week, Brazil’s death toll surpassed that of Italy’s, placing the nation third in the world, behind only the US and the UK.
Mr Bolsonaro has played down the risks of the virus, having initially compared it to “a little flu”. Two health ministers have left the post since the outbreak began in disagreement with the president’s response.
He has continued to call for lockdown measures imposed by local authorities to be lifted, arguing that they will wreck the economy. The president also accuses state governors and mayors of using the issue for political gain as many who have taken stricter measures oppose his government.