Health Ministry finds another way to hide coronavirus deaths

coronavirus deaths brazil
NGO Rio de Paz dug “graves” on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, in homage to Covid-19 victims. Photo: Jorge Hely Veiga/Shutterstock

As Brazil continues to break consecutive records of new daily coronavirus deaths — with an astonishing 3,251 new casualties on Tuesday — the Health Ministry plans to change how it counts victims. It intends to demand data such as tax ID numbers, nationality, and national health insurance IDs of patients who died of Covid-19. The information was confirmed by newspaper Folha de S.Paulo.

The move made the daily death toll in São Paulo state drop dramatically — from 1,021 to 281. Officials in São Paulo claim the federal government did not warn them in advance about the change to the system, causing inconsistencies that make official government data more unreliable.

Such a change as the country reaches its worst moment during the pandemic gives Brazilians an eerie sensation of déjà vu.

In June 2020, amid the first peak of coronavirus deaths, the Brazilian Health Ministry tried to tamper with official data. First, it delayed updates until after all nightly newscasts on national television had finished. Then, it temporarily took down its online Covid-19 dashboard.

In response, major Brazilian media outlets decided to band together and tabulate nationwide cases and deaths on their own, using data from state health secretariats.

UPDATE: After protests from state health authorities, the Health Ministry announced it would delay the implementation of the new rules until a later date.