Brazil, Gov’t Backtracks and Republishes Covid-19 Data

On 9 June, the Brazilian health ministry’s coronavirus (Covid-19) data portal was restored, presenting daily and cumulative numbers of cases and fatalities, as well as the breakdown of data by state, as it had been doing until last week.
Brazil Republishes Covid-19 Data

Analysis:

The restoration of the federal health ministry’s Covid-19 website follows an order by the supreme court (STF) to do so, as well as several days of fierce criticism over what was perceived as an attempt by President Jair Bolsonaro’s government to fudge numbers and twist the narrative on the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil. The government has denied such charges, but there is no doubt that it has lost public trust and now stands discredited, while the whole episode has served to highlight the flaws in the collection of Covid-19 data more generally.

  • The restored website was updated to reflect the latest Covid-19 figures yesterday evening. According to the health ministry, there were 32,091 new confirmed Covid-19 cases and 1,272 deaths yesterday, bringing the national total to 739,503 cases and 38,406 deaths.
  • These figures match those of the council of state health secretariats (Conass), available on a website Conass set up after the health ministry stopped publishing cumulative numbers. However, they differ from the data collated by a group of Brazilian news outlets. Having recorded different data both yesterday and on 8 June, this ‘press consortium’ has a total count of 742,084 confirmed cases and 38,497 deaths. 
  • Speaking before a congressional committee yesterday, interim health minister Eduardo Pazuello denied that the government had sought to conceal Covid-19 figures. “There has never been, and there never will be, concealment of data”, he said.
  • Pazuello explained that the ministry has been working on a “more robust” online platform, to be available shortly, which would incorporate new data in real time and present it in a more detailed manner. The government’s new methodology involves logging deaths by date of occurrence, rather than the date they are reported.

Looking Ahead:

Lawmakers suggested that the current coronavirus portal be maintained alongside the new platform described by Pazuello, at least until public trust in the government has been restored. The president of the federal chamber of deputies Rodrigo Maia warned that this could take a while.

In brief: Brazilian gov’t to extend emergency income handout

* Brazil’s economy minister, Paulo Guedes, has confirmed that the government will extend the distribution of the R$600 (US$122.50) emergency basic income for a further two months. The emergency handout, set up in late March to help Brazil’s 38m informal workers weather the fallout from the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, will be extended beyond the three initial monthly installments through to July and August, although Guedes did not specify whether its value will be maintained. An economy ministry official had previously indicated it would be cut by half, to R$300. The president of the federal chamber of deputies, Rodrigo Maia, has separately defended cutting high-level public sector salaries in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government as part of efforts to free up resources to fund the extension of the emergency basic income.

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