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Russian official acknowledges actual coronavirus death toll is much higher than official figures


A statement from a top Russian official indicates that the country’s true coronavirus death toll is more than three times higher than the country’s official statistics show.

New data from the country’s statistics agency, Rosstat, shows that during the first 11 months of 2020, there was an increase of more than 229,700 more deaths in Russia than during the same period in 2019.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who is in charge of the country’s coronavirus response, said Monday that “more than 81% of this increase in mortality over this period is due to Covid.” According to a CNN calculation, that means 186,000 Russians died from coronavirus in these months.

With an actual Covid-19 death toll of 186,000, Russia would have the third-highest number of any country in the world, after the United States and Brazil.

Golikova’s statement marks the first time a Russian official has acknowledged what critics have long suspected: That Russia’s true coronavirus death toll is much higher than the official toll, which is under 56,000.

Russia has reported more than 3 million confirmed Covid-19 cases but maintained it has a comparatively low fatality rate thanks to how it has handled the pandemic.

Critics have expressed overwhelming skepticism of Russia’s official figures, saying that the issue lies with the counting method that permits ascribing deaths in coronavirus-infected patients to other causes, and allows officials to claim a lower toll.

For instance, Rosstat said that 35,645 people with coronavirus or suspected coronavirus died in November, but added that in about a third of fatalities Covid-19 was not considered to be the main cause of death or a major factor in the death at all.

Russia’s coronavirus task force, which publishes daily statistics on new cases and fatalities using a different methodology than Rosstat, reported only 12,229 coronavirus-related deaths in November.

This counting method differs from World Health Organization guidelines, which states that all deaths related to Covid-19 should be counted unless there is “a clear alternative cause that cannot be related” to the disease.

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