BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s top court waded into the controversy surrounding official reporting of coronavirus death and infection figures, as a Supreme Court justice ruled the Health Ministry must revert to releasing the full set of data it had previously made available.
Over the weekend the Health Ministry abruptly removed troves of detailed coronavirus data and said it would no longer publish cumulative totals, causing outrage across the political spectrum. Last week it pushed back the release of the numbers late into the evening and past Brazil’s main news program.
In a statement posted to the Supreme Court website in the early hours of Tuesday, Justice Alexandre de Moraes said the Health Ministry must “fully re-establish the daily dissemination of epidemiological data on the Covid-19 pandemic, including on the agency’s website, under the terms presented until last Thursday.”
The government’s actions in recent days have made it “impossible” to monitor the spread of the virus and to implement adequate and necessary control and prevention policies, he said.
Failure to adopt internationally recognized methods of data collection, analysis, and dissemination could have “disastrous consequences” for Brazil, Moraes said.
The decision came after the ministry had already rowed back on its earlier position, saying on Monday evening that it would release data earlier and dismissing allegations that numbers were being manipulated.
Brazil’s confirmed cases, more than 700,000, are the second highest in the world behind only the United States, and the death toll is now over 37,000.
(Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)