SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil removed from public view months of data on its COVID-19 epidemic on Saturday, 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 epidemic over time and by state and municipality. The ministry also stopped giving a total count of confirmed cases, which have shot past 672,000 – more than anywhere outside the United States – or a total death toll, which passed Italy this week, nearing 36,000 by Saturday.
“The cumulative data ... does not reflect the moment the country is in,” Bolsonaro said on Twitter, citing a note from the ministry. “Other actions are underway to improve the reporting of cases and confirmation of diagnoses.”
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.