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.
“The cumulative data … does not reflect the moment the country is in,” Bolsonaro said on Twitter, citing a note from the ministry.
Neither Bolsonaro nor the ministry gave a reason for erasing most of the data on the covid.saude.gov.br website, which had been a key public resource for tracking the pandemic.
The page was taken down on Friday and reloaded Saturday with a new layout and just a fraction of the data, reflecting only deaths, cases and recoveries within the last 24 hours. Late on Saturday, the ministry reported 27,075 new confirmed infections and 904 related deaths since its Friday update.
Brazil reported more new cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any other country on four consecutive days this week. Bolsonaro tweeted on Saturday that a later daily update would “avoid undernotification and inconsistencies.”