Brazil resumes publishing total death toll from COVID-19

BRASILIA – Brazil’s government has resumed publishing the country’s total death toll from the coronavirus pandemic, after facing accusations of trying to hide the magnitude of its raging health crisis.

President Jair Bolsonaro’s government had stopped publishing the total number of deaths from the new coronavirus on Friday, saying it was adopting a new methodology and would only report the number of deaths recorded in the past 24 hours in its daily bulletin.

That drew accusations of foul play from a long list of high-profile critics, as well as a ruling from Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes on Monday that the government must return to the old format.

The number of positive cases in Brazil has now reached 775,581, the second-highest caseload in the world. The South American country has so far recorded 39,803 deaths – the third-highest toll in the world, after the United States and Britain – while 396,692 have recovered from the disease.

Experts say under-testing means the real numbers in the country of 212 million people are probably much higher.

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Bolsonaro, who famously compared the virus to a “little flu,” has railed against the consensus response to the pandemic saying stay-at-home measures are needlessly wrecking the economy.

He threatened to quit the World Health Organization, WHO, over “ideological bias” – criticism echoed on Tuesday by his foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo.

“The WHO lacks independence, transparency and coherence. The foreign ministry is following its role with great concern,” Araujo said. “We need to look into it. Is it a matter of political influence, is it a matter of non-state actors influencing the WHO?”