According to some reports, Russia hit a grim Covid-19 milestone this week – it now reportedly ranks second in the world for confirmed coronavirus cases.
The Johns Hopkins University says the Russian capital has been hardest hit. Of Russia’s total of 281,752 confirmed cases, over half — 142,824 — are in Moscow.
Russia’s mortality figures have become a political football but the authorities there now say the figures are skewed and argue that one needs to take a closer look at the actual statistics. Despite claims to the contrary, the government says it has not manipulated statistics and Russian health officials have also hit back at media reports that it was underreporting Covid-19 fatalities, saying its data was “absolutely open.”
As President Putin has begun a gradual relaxation of the lockdown, Moscow, in particular, has angrily rebuffed claims that Russia is deliberately trying to distort COVID mortality by assigning alternative causes of deaths.
Moscow’s chief medical examiner Oleg Zayratyants said, “Unlike many cities and countries in the world, when COVID is suspected, in Moscow we are conducting autopsies at a 100% rate – we examine all patients who have died with a history of COVID-like symptoms, not just those who were tested positive before passing away.
“We can tell a COVID-caused death from, say, a death from a stroke when, for instance, a patient had had a previous history of strokes and hypertension. So, COVID-19 might have aggravated their condition but didn’t cause death per se. This is exactly according to the WHO guidelines”.
The total number of deaths of all-causes over a baseline average for Moscow in April is estimated to be about 1,800.This is roughly a 20-25% increase.
Last month in Madrid the spike is estimated to have been over 10,000 (or 160%), in Paris 8,000 (about 120% over average) and in London about 4,000 (or 100%).
In Stockholm, where the restrictions were very limited, it was a 900 person increase (75%).
Even if, as has been claimed,Russia “fiddled” the statistics about the causes of death, “all-causes” excess mortality in European capitals is still more than 4-5 times higher than in Moscow.
In New York, the gap between the number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 caused deaths and the total excess deaths is comparable to the Moscow proportions, according to CDC.
From March 11 to May 2 there were about 24,172 excess deaths in New York, of which only 13,831 or about half were lab-confirmed to be related to COVID-19.
That is about 10 times higher than the comparable figures in Moscow.
A Brussels based expert on EU/Russia relations told this website, “All countries which are trying to set a precedent of lifting lockdowns are fiercely attacked by those advocating for longer and stricter lockdowns playing havoc on economies. But Russia is the most convenient whipping boy as it’s always easier to believe that something is wrong there rather than to accept that something can work better.”
The message is clear: as the death toll is much higher than reported, the authorities are sending Russians out to catch the virus and die. It is claimed that the number of COVID-caused deaths officially reported is lower than a half of statistically estimated excess deaths compared to previous years averages.
“Though it might sound impressive for a man in the street, the comparison of two figures is no more than just a manipulation. The former include only evidence-based confirmed cases where COVID-19 clearly caused the fatal outcome whereas the latter includes deaths where the virus is suspected but not confirmed, or might have been present but didn’t directly caused death, or, wasn’t directly related to the virus at all – for instance, alcohol-related accidents and suicides caused by the behavioural change.
“The gap, of course it quite natural and not peculiar to Russia.”