Russia said on Monday that its coronavirus death toll was more than three times higher than what it had previously reported, making it the country with the third highest death toll in the world.
For months, President Vladimir Putin bragged about Russia’s low death rate from the virus, saying earlier this month it had done a “better” job of dealing with the pandemic than Western countries.
Experts, including medical professionals and data scientists, questioned official statistics for months, accusing the government of downplaying the country’s outbreak.
On Monday, Russian officials admitted it was true.
Statistics agency Rosstat said the number of deaths from all causes recorded between January and November rose by 229,700 from the previous year.
“More than 81% of this increase in mortality during this period is due to COVID,” Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said, meaning that around 186,000 Russians died from COVID-19 in 2020.
The data also showed that more people died in Russia in November 2020 than in any other month since this data began collecting 16 years ago, the Moscow News newspaper reported.
Excessive deaths – the difference between all deaths recorded in 2020 and previous years – are considered one of the most reliable indicators of the number of people who have died from the pandemic.
While Russia has confirmed more than three million cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic – the fourth highest number of cases in the world – it has only reported 55,265 deaths and has been criticized for only listing COVID-19 deaths where an autopsy has confirmed the virus as the main cause.
Alexei Raksha, a demographer who left Rosstat in July, told AFP news agency last week that the Russian Ministry of Health and the Consumer Health Ministry had falsified the coronavirus figures.
New Rosstat figures mean Russia now has the third highest death toll from COVID-19 in the world after the United States, where 334,618 people have died, and Brazil, with 191,570 deaths, data shows from Johns Hopkins University.
‘Follow the rules’
Despite the country facing a second growing wave of infections, authorities have been reluctant to impose a nationwide lockdown for fear of causing further damage to an already struggling economy.
The government expects the economy to contract 3.9% this year, while the central bank expects an even steeper decline.
During his annual year-end press conference earlier this month, Putin rejected the idea of imposing the type of lockdown that many European countries introduced over the Christmas holidays.
“If we follow the rules and requirements of health regulators, we don’t need a lockdown,” he said.
While strict measures have been imposed in some major cities, authorities in many regions have restricted the wearing of masks in public spaces and the reduction of mass gatherings.
But many Russians are flouting social distancing rules, and in recent weeks the epidemic in the country has overwhelmed poorly funded hospitals in the regions.
The country has placed its hopes for the end of the epidemic on vaccination, and a mass deployment of its Sputnik V jab, named after the Soviet-era satellite.
The country launched the program earlier this month, vaccinating high-risk workers between the ages of 18 and 60 without chronic illness for the first time.
Over the weekend, people over 60 were given the green light to receive the photo.
On Monday, the developer of Sputnik V, the state-run research center in Gamaleya, said about 700,000 doses have so far been released for home use.
However, Russia has not said how many people it has vaccinated so far and according to recent surveys by state pollster VTsIOM and polling agency Levada Center, only 38% of Russians plan to get it. vaccinate.