Russia has admitted it has the third highest Covid death toll in the world with more than 186,000 deaths – three times higher than previously recognized and at a higher per capita rate than the UK or America.
President Vladimir Putin has previously claimed the country weathered the pandemic "better" than Western nations, although some Russian experts said the government downplayed the outbreak.
However, statistics agency Rosstat said that 186,057 people had died of coronavirus in the country between the start of the pandemic and November, compared with the official death toll of just 55,265.
Rosstat didn't give an explanation for the difference, but Russia's official figures usually come from health officials based on deaths that were only found to be the cause of Covid after an autopsy.
Rosstat and Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova's numbers on Monday appeared to include all coronavirus-related deaths.
Experts said other factors, such as officials' tendency to beautify statistics, as well as Russia's vast geographic location, may also have contributed to the low number of officials.
The revised number means that only the US (330,000) and Brazil (191,000) have suffered more coronavirus deaths than Russia.
But only San Marino and Belgium have suffered more deaths for the size of their populations. Russia's official figure is 37.8 deaths per 100,000 people, but with the updated toll it increases to 128.7. For comparison, the UK mortality rate is 107.11 and the US is 102.34.
Russian health officials have registered more than 3 million infections since the pandemic began, making the country the fourth highest in the world.
However, they have reported a much lower death rate than other hard-hit countries.
Only San Marino and Belgium have suffered more deaths due to population size. Russia's official figure is 37.8 deaths per 100,000 people, but with the updated figure it increases to 128.7. For comparison, the UK mortality rate is 107.11 and the US is 102.34
The state statistics office Rosstat announced on Monday that 186,057 people in the country had died of coronavirus between January and November – a huge jump from the health authorities' previously reported numbers of 55,265 deaths due to the disease
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova and the state statistics agency Rosstat released new figures for the number of coronavirus deaths in the country. They were more than three times higher than previously announced. Pictured: Golikova at the press conference on Monday
Russia's main coronavirus website had yet to update its numbers to reflect Rosstat's Tuesday morning results, showing the country's death toll at 55,827.
Rosstat boss Pavel Malkov previously expressed indifference to possible pressure from the Kremlin and told Bloomberg in 2019 that "there is no political pressure and that it is in principle impossible".
In another interview earlier this year, he insisted that there are no secret forces wanting to change our data or prevent it from being published as far as the coronavirus is concerned.
However, the agency's numbers paint a completely different picture from the government's official census, which suggests a per capita death rate on a par with Germany's, which – at least until recently – has been praised for dealing with the pandemic.
Doubts about Russia's official toll have been expressed for months over what appears to be a low death rate, which the Russian government said was due to the virus having had more time to prepare due to the later arrival of the virus.
The official death toll suggested that the average death toll in Russia, despite the 145 million population dwarfing any EU country or the UK, has never risen above 600 a day, a lower level than the main ones Western European countries.
While the official task force reports deaths from Covid-19 on a daily basis, Rosstat publishes updated statistics every month and analyzes the data retrospectively to provide a more complete picture.
The Rosstat data showed that the number of deaths from all reasons rose 229,700, or nearly 14 percent, in the first eleven months of this year compared to the same period last year.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said Monday at a government meeting that "over 81 percent of the increase in mortality during this period is related to Covid and the consequences of infection with Covid," implying 186,000 deaths from Covid.
The agency counted 70,921 deaths, with Covid-19 being the leading cause between April and November, while the task force reported only 40,464 deaths.
The new numbers from Russia, which put the country only behind the US and Brazil in coronavirus deaths, also suggest that more than 35,000 people died with Covid-19 in November alone, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant.
It came as nations like Russia stepped up vaccination campaigns to stamp out the pandemic.
Moscow hopes to protect a weak economy by avoiding another shutdown and instead containing the Russian outbreak by inoculating people en masse with its Sputnik V-burst.
Russia was one of the first countries to start its vaccination campaign in early December. Most European nations started their vaccination campaign over the weekend.
Vladimir Putin had previously claimed Russia coped better with the pandemic, although some experts said the government was downplaying the outbreak
Russia's official record showed that despite the country's larger population, cases never rose above 650 a day, a lower high than Western Europe – but the new numbers suggest that there were some far worse days in the spring and fall got to
As in much of Europe, the infection rate reached in Russia reached new highs in autumn and winter and was accompanied by an increase in the death rate
The 10 countries with the highest number of Covid deaths per 100,000 people
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Russia ACTUAL THIRD
Russia OFFICIAL 54 ..
DEATH / 100K
Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Death Numbers, updated December 29th at 11 a.m. GMT
Vladimir Putin announced in August that Russia was the first country to register a vaccine, claiming that Sputnik V – named after the Soviet Cold War space satellites – "passed all necessary tests".
Putin said the vaccine offers "sustained immunity" to Covid-19 and that his daughter has already received the sting, with Russia considering mass injections before the end of 2020.
While small studies can show whether a vaccine is likely to be safe, Russia has not released results from the usually month-long Phase III tests that measure its effectiveness.
In contrast, today's announcement from Pfizer is based on results from Phase III studies.
In August, one scientist called Putin's actions "unethical" because an "improperly tested vaccine" could have "catastrophic" public health effects, while others warned that "no data" are available to indicate whether the Russian is a Russian Vaccine is effective.
Another expert warned that "the harm from the release of a vaccine that was not safe and effective would make our current problems insurmountable".
The Kremlin and its state-controlled media have touted Russian scientists as global pioneers and made the vaccination race a matter of national prestige – leading to fears that security could be jeopardized for the good of Russia.
The UK, US and Canada claimed in the summer that Russia tried to meddle with Western vaccine research to win the race.
The rollout in other parts of Europe has raised hopes of an end to the pandemic, particularly in some of the hardest-hit parts of the continent.
"Today is a great moment when you think back to everything we went through," said Isabella Palazzini, an Italian nurse in Cremona who lost three colleagues to Covid-19.
However, pharmaceutical company Pfizer warned of delays in some shipments of the vaccine from its factory to eight European nations.
Russia was one of the first countries to start its vaccination campaign in early December. Most European nations launched their vaccination campaign over the weekend in hopes of ending the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured: An elderly man in Moscow receives the Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine in Moscow on Monday
A "minor logistical problem" meant some vaccine shipments were "postponed," Pfizer spokesman Andrew Widger said, but insisted the problems had been "resolved".
High-profile politicians, including US President-elect Joe Biden, have made efforts to get the vaccination public to combat skepticism about record-breaking shocks.
Spain, which announced on Monday that the coronavirus death toll had exceeded 50,000, plans to set up a register of people who refuse to be vaccinated against the new coronavirus and share it with other EU countries despite it will not be released, Health Minister Salvador Illa said.
Vaccination campaigns have also begun in China, Canada, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, and there is hope of another successful vaccine on the horizon.
Elsewhere, new coronavirus variants in the UK and South Africa are forcing more countries to reintroduce economically damaging restrictions to prevent the variants believed to spread much faster from crossing borders.
The new British variety has already spread from people who traveled from London to several European countries as well as Japan, Canada and South Korea.
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