Brazil Judge Orders Virus Data Release Amid Cover-Up Allegations

A justice in Brazil’s top court ordered the nation’s health ministry to resume the publication of detailed reports on the local coronavirus outbreak amid accusations that President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration was trying to hide numbers.

Judge Alexandre de Moraes gave the government 48 hours to return to the format it had used up until June 4, which included both daily increases in virus cases and deaths as well as cumulative figures since the start of the outbreak. The ministry strayed away from that model on Friday, fueling accusations from medical experts, including former Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, that it wast trying to cover up numbers.

In the decision published early on Tuesday, Moraes wrote that the gathering and publication of data were crucial to guiding public policies.

Brazil’s constitution “expressly enshrined the principle of disclosure as one of the indispensable vectors for the public sector, giving it absolute priority within administrative management and guaranteeing full access to information for the entire society,” Moraes wrote in the ruling that was published on the court’s website.

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    The decision is the latest twist in a controversy over how the government releases data on one of the world’s biggest Covid-19 hotspots. Scrutiny of the data grew last week when the health ministry removed its virus database from its website and said it would change how it tallies deaths attributed to the pandemic. Brazil has already recorded the second-highest number of cases in the world, and the peak of the outbreak is still weeks away.

    The presidency’s press office said Sunday that the ministry tried to provide a more accurate picture of the disease’s ``moment'' with its methodology change. Still, the ministry resumed the publication of historical data amid the backlash.

    Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said on Tuesday that the government is launching a new tool and not manipulating virus data. Information on the pandemic must be complete and easy to access, he said during a cabinet meeting broadcast live on television.

    Later on Tuesday, Bolsonaro will face a separate decision from the country’s top electoral court, which is scheduled to rule on two requests to annul his 2018 election amid allegations that it benefited from cyber attacks. That case against Bolsonaro is not expected to gain traction.

    — With assistance by Simone Preissler Iglesias

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