US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Since the coronavirus spread around the world, researchers have been puzzled by the fact that the death rate in Russia is only about 13 deaths per million, which is much lower than the world average of 36 cases per million. And this is in a country with an underfunded health system.
However, with the advent of April data, this mysterious situation seems to be clearing up.
According to data released by the Moscow government on Friday, the total number of registered deaths in the Russian capital in April exceeded the average for the same month over five years by more than 1,700. This total figure far exceeds official statistics, according to which 642 people died from coronavirus. which indicates a significant understatement of data by the authorities.
A similar picture is observed in many other countries. For example, in neighboring Belarus, where authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko rejected calls to introduce an isolation regime, calling it “madness and psychosis,” the official mortality rate is about 10 per million people. In Mexico, officials have recorded more than three times more deaths in the capital than the government confirms.
“Mortality in Moscow seems to be significantly higher than the average for the last ten years,” said Tatyana Mikhailova, senior researcher at the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow, in an interview. “One thing is clear: the number of victims of Covid-19 is probably almost three times higher than official figures.” To get accurate data, additional calculations are needed, she added.
The new data is very different from the information the Kremlin is disseminating.
At the end of April, in her report to President Vladimir Putin, Anna Popova, the head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare, Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare), proudly stated that the country’s mortality rate is “one of the lowest in the world.” Russian state-owned TV channels tirelessly praise ongoing anti-virus measures in the country as more effective than actions taken in Western countries.
On Monday, despite a sharp increase in the number of infected people, Putin announced the success of slowing the spread of coronavirus and announced the end of the “non-working days” period introduced in late March.
Speaking on a state-owned television channel shortly after health officials reported the most significant daily increase in the number of people infected, Putin admitted that the pandemic has not yet been defeated. At the same time, he said that the decision to abolish or tighten the restrictions on the ground should now be made by the heads of the regions.
Although according to official statistics, the death toll from coronavirus as of Monday was 1,124 in Moscow and 2009 throughout the country, it will be extremely difficult to get a more accurate estimate.
Since the Moscow authorities announced the closure of Moscow in March, thousands of people left the city, which should have led to a reduction in mortality in the city. And many people could die for other reasons, since at least 37 Moscow hospitals have been converted to treat only coronavirus patients.
According to independent Moscow demographer Alexei Raksha, in general, about 70% of coronavirus-related deaths were not registered in Moscow, and about 80% in the country’s regions. He was one of the first to discover April data that was “lost” on a little-known website of state statistics when he studied mortality rates in the Russian capital and regions of the country and compared them with official mortality statistics.
The lower rates, according to Alexei Raksha, can be explained by how the causes of death are recorded in Russia.
“In most cases, the cause of death is the disease of the organ that directly caused the death of the patient,” he said in an interview. “The system has been working like this for a long time.” Raksha believes it is very likely that authorities at some level are manipulating this system to get the desired result.
Last week, speaking at the Echo of Moscow radio station, the chief pathologist of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, Georgy Frank, admitted that health officials have wide discretion in registering causes of death.
“In some cases, Covid-19 may be the main cause of death, and in some cases, it may just be the background of the (main) disease,” Frank said. “Of course, there can be some manipulations, but decent doctors never allow such things.”
Russia reported the country’s first coronavirus death on March 19, when a 79-year-old woman died in Moscow. Soon after, another cause of this death was announced – supposedly a blood clot – and this case was excluded from the official list of deaths from Covid-19.
In April of this year, more than 11,800 people died in Moscow, which is much more than in April of any other year since 1995, when the economic crisis raged in Russia, more serious than the Great Depression. These data were published by the Moscow government, which receives information from the city registration bureaus registering important stages in a person’s life, such as birth, marriage and death.
Mortality statistics will be updated by Rosstat by the end of this month, but it is unlikely to change much. The average mortality rate in the Russian capital in April is about 10,000.
Moscow, which is the busiest point of entry into the country, became the first territory in Russia to be seriously affected by the coronavirus. However, it lags behind most other European capitals, since until mid-April there were only a few deaths recorded.
Russian regions, in turn, lag behind Moscow. As of Monday morning, Moscow accounted for 52% of all cases of coronavirus registered in Russia – with a total number of infected more than 109 thousand people.
According to experts, a clearer idea of the true number of deaths from coronavirus is likely to be obtained on the basis of mortality data for May, when the virus began to really overwhelm Russia. Over the past week, about 45 deaths and more than five thousand new cases of the disease were recorded daily in Moscow.
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