The South American nation of Brazil has decided to stop releasing data relating to coronavirus-related infections and fatalities. Critics have called the move a startling breach of transparency that aims to cover up the true scale of COVID-19 in the country.
According to Politico, the Brazilian federal health ministry took down the nation's website that showed national figures -- including daily, weekly, and monthly numbers -- relating to infections and deaths due to COVID-19. Though the website returned Saturday morning, the statistics relating to weekly and monthly totals have been removed. The website currently only shows updates over the past 24-hour period and does not give a total.
The last numbers that were released to the public showed that the South American nation had an estimated 615,000 infections and 34,000 deaths due to the virus. The number of fatalities currently stands as the third-highest number in the world, behind the United States and the United Kingdom.
However, Brazil's infection rate is the second-highest, raising concerns that the virus is still making its way through the world's seventh most populous nation.
President Jair Bolsonaro had previously hit out at the numbers, claiming that they had been inflated and were "not representative" of the disease's status in the country.
The president was echoed by Carlos Wizard, a businessman and known Bolsonaro-ally who is reportedly soon to enter a high-level post in the Health Ministry. Wizard claimed that the federal government was in the process of conducting an analysis of the data to get a "more accurate" total.
"The number we have today is fanciful or manipulated," Wizard said.
However, many critics have claimed that the move aims to cover up a disastrous response to the pandemic. Even before the new decision, Bolsonaro had been criticized for not taking the virus seriously and avoiding lockdown measures that could have prevented the spread of the disease.
In fact, the health minister of Brazil abruptly quit earlier in May after many reported disagreements with the president, primarily Bolsonaro's decision to begin reopening the economy despite a "virus explosion" that was sweeping the country.
Meanwhile, a council of state health secretaries has said that it will not take the new changes lying down.
"The authoritarian, insensitive, inhumane and unethical attempt to make the COVID-19 deaths invisible will not prosper," the health secretaries council said in a statement released on Saturday.
Brazil is not the only country on the continent to be feeling the effects of the pandemic. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, its neighboring nation, Argentina, has found the crisis to be devastating to the economy, and many experts are worried that the nation could suffer financial collapse due to the strain.