A Supreme Court judge in Brazil has ordered the Health Ministry to resume publishing complete COVID-19 statistics in the interest of public health as the country struggles with one of the highest infection rates in the world.
The move marks yet another instance of the court acting to check executive power in Latin America’s biggest economy during the pandemic.
The government of President Jair Bolsonaro sparked outrage over the weekend by announcing it would no longer publish the number of new infections or deaths from COVID-19, while also striking months of data from the Health Ministry’s website.
Early Tuesday, Judge Alexandre de Moraes gave the government 48 hours to update COVID-19 data so as to “assist public authorities in decision-making and give the general population full knowledge of the pandemic.”
De Moraes said the Brazilian Constitution obliges the federal government to provide essential information to the public. His decision came in response to a legal challenge by members of opposition political parties.
Brazil has registered more than 37,000 deaths since the outbreak began. The country of 210 million people has also tallied the second-highest infection rate in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the health risks of the virus, urging citizens to carry on as usual.
The high court has been very active during the pandemic. In April, it barred the president from lifting quarantines issued by local governments. Then, in May, it suspended a government order requiring phone carriers to share personal information of customers with the country’s statistics agency purportedly to compile more complete data during the health emergency.