The Russian government admitted, Monday, December 29, some 186,000 deaths due to Covid-19 this year, a toll more than three times higher than the official count and which makes Russia one of the most bereaved countries in the world. These new figures are based on a broader definition of victims infected with SARS-CoV-2, under a new accounting system closer to international standards.
These figures contrast with those published daily by the government, transmitted to the WHO and used for international comparisons, which only take into account Covid deaths confirmed by autopsy.
On Monday, the Rosstat statistics office reported an excess of mortality between January and November of 229,700 people, up 13.8% from the same period in 2019. And “More than 81% of this increase in mortality over this period is due to Covid and the consequences of the disease due to the coronavirus”, that is to say a little more than 186,000 deaths, indicated, according to the Russian press agencies, the vice-prime minister in charge of health, Tatiana Golikova.
More than 25,000 dead in November
This toll is more than three times higher than the 55,265 official deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic on the Russian government site dedicated to the fight against the pandemic. However, the authorities only count from day to day the Covid-19 deaths confirmed by an autopsy.
It was on the basis of these figures that President Vladimir Putin welcomed the fact, in mid-December, that Russia had “Better” managed the pandemic only in the West. But, according to Rosstat, in November alone, 25,788 people died from SARS-CoV-2 contamination.
The statistics agency classifies these deaths into three categories: those confirmed to have been caused by the Covid; those for which the Covid is suspected to be the main cause; and those where the Covid has accentuated other pathologies, causing death. This is the first time Rosstat has published detailed monthly figures, but it does not give these details for previous months.
No new confinement envisaged
Rosstat figures now place Russia third world rank in terms of deaths, behind the United States (more than 330,000 deaths) and Brazil (more than 190,000), while the country, like the rest of the world, has been hit since the autumn by a second wave epidemic. In October, according to Rosstat, Russia had already recorded 50,000 more deaths compared to 2019, including 22,761 linked to the coronavirus.
The Kremlin has nevertheless rejected the idea of any new national containment, after that of spring, in order to preserve the economy, deeming itself well prepared and counting on the effectiveness of its vaccine, Sputnik-V, which was deployed in early December . However, most regions have imposed the wearing of protective masks and limited access to certain places of recreation.
In terms of contamination, Russia remains in fourth place in the world, with 3,078,035 cases of Covid-19 identified, according to the Russian government. Since the start of winter, the country has been breaking records for new daily infections every week. The most affected cities remain the capital, Moscow, and its region, as well as the country’s second city, Saint Petersburg. But the situation is also worrying in the poorest and often under-equipped regions.
To overcome the epidemic, the government is basing its hopes on mass vaccination of the Russian population with the national vaccine, Sputnik-V. Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko ruled on Saturday that this vaccine was “Safe and effective” for mass vaccination of the population and authorized its use in people over 60 years of age.
The authorities have so far not published the results of people already vaccinated. For its part, the Gamaleïa Center, which produces Sputnik-V, specified that nearly 700,000 doses of the vaccine had already been delivered to Russia.
But the population still needs to be convinced of the benefits of vaccination, in a country where mistrust of the authorities remains strong. According to a poll by the public center VTsIOM published last Thursday, only 38% of Russians intended to be vaccinated.