Protect Indigenous peoples from COVID-19

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Science  17 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6488, pp. 251
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc0073

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  • RE: Health data censorship in Brazil during COVID-19 pandemic
    • Luciana Leite, Biologist, PhD, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil; Rede CoVida
    • Other Contributors:
      • Flavia B Pilecco, Epidemiologist, MD, PhD, Departamento de Medicina Preventiva e Social, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil; Rede CoVida
      • Estela ML Aquino, Professor, MD, PhD, Instituto de Saúde Coletiva, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil; Rede CoVida

    Ferrante and Fearnside (1) have drawn attention to the need to protect indigenous people from COVID-19 in Brazil. Yet, there is little hope of meaningful action from the federal government, especially to protect vulnerable communities. COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to increase among indigenous, traditional and urban communities throughout Brazil. Unwilling to take meaningful action to control the pandemic, the government has instead sought to control the narrative through data suppression.

    Efforts at censorship became evident from late May with multiple changes to the national epidemiological dashboard. As Brazil reached >1000 deaths daily, this dashboard was reorganized to emphasize the number of recoveries rather than the number of cases and deaths. Later, more drastic edits were made to remove most indicators, including incidence, lethality, and data disaggregated by sociodemographic characteristics. The edited dashboard presented only the daily number of new recoveries, cases, and deaths (2). For four days, no official channel published cumulative numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Brazil.

    Citing the importance of data to inform the pandemic response, and the constitutional principles of openness and transparency, a supreme-court justice determined the dashboard should be restored. The government complied, but other incidents of censorship persist, including the deletion of a study on Black community health and a technical report on sexual a...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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