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Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Created to disseminate data on Covid, consortium of press vehicles comes to an end

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After 965 uninterrupted days of work, the press vehicle consortium ends its mission to ensure transparency about the impact of the coronavirus and vaccination. The consortium was created in June 2020 when the government of Jair Bolsonaro (PL) tried to omit population data and delay bulletins about the disease.

The end of the consortium does not mean that the Covid-19 pandemic is over. Disclosure of cases and deaths will continue to be made by each press body. However, there is no longer a need for daily verification of the data together by the vehicles that participated in the project —g1, O Globo, Extra, Estadão, Sheet and UOL.

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“The consortium fulfilled the role of the professional press in keeping the public informed on a vital issue when the federal government neglected this task”, stated Sérgio Dávila, editorial director of the Sheet.

In recent months, data from state and federal governments have proven to be reliable. And they point to a situation that epidemiologists consider under control, even though it requires attention to increased levels of vaccination and other preventive measures.

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The press vehicles remain attentive to variations in the rates and maintain the commitment to inform the population about the disease.

Over more than two and a half years, more than a hundred journalists from the consortium vehicles worked collaboratively every day to collect the numbers of people infected and killed by Covid, in addition to the number of vaccinated, from state health departments. The data, always consolidated at 8 pm, were released daily by the participating vehicles and fed thousands of journalistic content in text and video.

“The consortium was an operation that involved more than a hundred journalists over these two and a half years. It was only possible due to the professionalism of the press vehicles. Professional journalism requires a sense of urgency, the ability to gather relevant information with precision and agility and show all this in an objective and clear way”, says Renato Franzini, director of g1. “I would like to thank all these journalists. And also all the employees who continued to collect and disseminate epidemiological data, fulfilling their functional duty.”

The consortium first emerged as a response from the press to the delay in publishing the data: it was done by the Ministry of Health every day at 5 pm (under the management of the then Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta) or at 7 pm (under the management of Nelson Teich). On June 3, 2020, when a record at the time of 1,349 deaths was recorded in 24 hours, then Minister Eduardo Pazuello only released the data at 9:45 pm. The following day, with a new record of 1,471 deaths, the bulletin was only published at 10 pm on the ministry’s website.

“When the federal government’s vacuum of transparency seemed hopeless, with the lack of disclosure of numbers and the total absence of standards in disclosing deaths and cases of Covid, with a country without a plan to combat the disease and no vaccine available, we contributed with reliable data so that Brazil would not be left blind. It is the State’s mission to comply with the transparency of its policies. Ending the capture of Covid data by the consortium is a vote of confidence, but with the message that we will be attentive to possible inconsistencies”, said Alexandre Gimenez, general manager of News, Economy and TAB at UOL.

In addition to the delay, there were other initiatives against transparency. The official bulletin began to highlight the cases and deaths recorded on the day, but without the accumulated total of dead and infected. Cases registered as “recovered”, even without knowledge of a cure for the disease at the time, also began to receive more attention.

Bolsonaro went so far as to say that not presenting the number of deaths from Covid was “good for Brazil” and confirmed that there was an intention to delay the data, when he stated that “an article in Jornal Nacional is over”. “It doesn’t matter who came from [a ordem para modificar o horário], it’s fair to leave at 10 pm, the data is completely consolidated. Quite the contrary, you don’t have to rush to attend Globo”, he said at the time.

The government’s position was heavily criticized by specialists and by international vehicles. The correct dissemination of numbers is important for the planning of public policies and the health security of the population.

The best practice standard was the dissemination of newsletters with cases under investigation, confirmed and discarded, and data such as onset of symptoms and closure of each case (whether due to hospital discharge or death).

“When the Brazilian State failed in the most basic duty of information in the face of an epidemic, the press, in an unprecedented action, joined forces to fill the void left by official ineptitude. competitive, which guarantees a plurality of visions. We hope that moments like the one that required the formation of the consortium will never be repeated in Brazil”, said Eurípedes Alcântara, director of journalism at Estadão.

When the consortium of press vehicles was formed and started to publish the data obtained directly from the 26 States and the Federal District, the federal government backtracked and resumed publishing the pandemic numbers regularly and at a time compatible with journalistic work. Even so, the consortium continued working, faced with the risk of a new data blackout.

With the daily monitoring of the crisis, milestones of the pandemic were recorded, such as when the death toll reached 200,000 in the country, on January 7, 2021, during the drama caused by the lack of oxygen in Manaus. Just over a hundred days later, in April 2021, the 400 thousand dead mark was reached. It was possible to detect the three major waves of deaths, in the middle of 2020 and in the beginning of 2021 and 2022. Currently, the moving average of deaths per day is around 70. comparable to what happened two years ago, when there were more than 3,000 deaths a day.

In addition to cases and deaths, the consortium began to disclose, on January 21, 2021, vaccination coverage with one or two doses of the population. And, as of September 2021, booster shots have been included. More recently, the immunization coverage of children from 3 to 11 years old, whose start of immunization was delayed in the country, began to be monitored.

For promoting transparency in a period of high risk to public health, the consortium received recognition from entities such as the ANJ (National Association of Newspapers) Prize for freedom of the press and Media of the Year, from Aberje (Brazilian Association of Business Communication) .

“The formation of the Consortium was a historic milestone for the Brazilian press, at a time when public power was lacking. Together, we understood the critical moment and left competition aside to offer the country a reliable service for researchers, doctors and authorities to define priorities and could save lives”, said Alan Gripp, editorial director of the newspaper O Globo.

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