Russia has admitted its national coronavirus death toll is more than three times higher than previously reported, making it the country with the third-largest number of fatalities

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Grave diggers wearing protective suits bury a COVID-19 victim.

Russia has admitted its national coronavirus death toll is more than three times higher than previously reported, making it the country with the third-largest number of fatalities.

Key points:

  • The new figures show more than 186,000 Russians have died from COVID-19
  • This is up from the 55,265 the country had officially reported
  • The country’s health authorities previously only counted COVID-19 deaths confirmed by autopsy

For months President Vladimir Putin has boasted about Russia’s low fatality rate from the virus, saying earlier this month that it had done a “better” job at managing the pandemic than Western countries.

But since early in the pandemic, some Russian experts have said the Government was playing down the country’s outbreak.

On Monday local time, Russian officials admitted that was true.

The Rosstat statistics agency said that the number of deaths from all causes recorded between January and November had risen by 229,700 compared to the previous year.

“More than 81 per cent of this increase in mortality over this period is due to COVID,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, meaning that over 186,000 Russians have died from COVID-19.

Russian health officials have registered more than 3 million infections since the start of the pandemic, putting the country’s caseload at fourth-highest in the world.

But they have only reported 55,265 deaths — a much lower fatality rate than in other badly hit countries.

Russia has been criticised for only listing COVID-19 deaths where an autopsy confirms the virus was the main cause.

Alexei Raksha, a demographer who left Rosstat in July, told AFP last week that the Russian health ministry and the consumer health ministry falsified coronavirus numbers.

Rosstat’s new figures mean that Russia now has the world’s third-highest COVID-19 death toll behind the United States with 333,140 and Brazil with 191,139, according to an AFP count.

Government resists imposing national lockdown

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking from behind a desk wearing a suit and tie.

President Vladimir Putin has told Russians that a national coronavirus lockdown is not necessary.(AP: Alexei Druzhinin)

The new figures came as authorities hold out against reimposing a nationwide lockdown in the hopes of buttressing a struggling economy even as the country is battered by a second wave of infections.

Russia’s Government predicts the economy will shrink by 3.9 per cent this year, while the Central Bank expects an even deeper decline.

During his annual end-of-year press conference earlier this month, Mr Putin rejected the idea of imposing the kind of lockdown many European countries introduced going into the Christmas holidays.

“If we follow the rules and demands of health regulators, then we do not need any lockdowns,” he said.

While strict measures have been imposed in some major cities, authorities in many regions have limited restrictions to mask-wearing in public spaces and reducing mass gatherings.

But many Russians flout social distancing rules and in recent weeks the country’s outbreak has overwhelmed poorly funded hospitals in the regions.

Vaccine scepticism hampers rollout

Close up of small vial with a cotton pad covering the opening and a label written in Russian.

Thousands of doctors, teachers and others in high-risk groups have signed up for the Sputnik V vaccine.(AP: Pavel Golovkin)

Russia has instead pinned its hopes on corralling its outbreak by vaccinating people en masse with its homemade Sputnik V jab, named after the Soviet-era satellite.

The country launched a mass vaccination programme earlier this month, first inoculating high-risk workers aged between 18 and 60 without chronic illnesses.

Over the weekend, people older than 60 got the green light to receive the shot.

On Monday, Sputnik V’s developer, the state-run Gamaleya research centre, said that around 700,000 doses had so far been released for domestic use.

However, Russia has not said how many people it has vaccinated so far, and according to recent surveys by state-run pollster VTsIOM and the Levada polling agency only 38 per cent of Russians plan to get the shot.

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Key points:

  • The new figures show more than 186,000 Russians have died from COVID-19
  • This is up from the 55,265 the country had officially reported
  • The country’s health authorities previously only counted COVID-19 deaths confirmed by autopsy

For months President Vladimir Putin has boasted about Russia’s low fatality rate from the virus, saying earlier this month that it had done a “better” job at managing the pandemic than Western countries.

But since early in the pandemic, some Russian experts have said the Government was playing down the country’s outbreak.

On Monday local time, Russian officials admitted that was true.

The Rosstat statistics agency said that the number of deaths from all causes recorded between January and November had risen by 229,700 compared to the previous year.

“More than 81 per cent of this increase in mortality over this period is due to COVID,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, meaning that over 186,000 Russians have died from COVID-19.

Russian health officials have registered more than 3 million infections since the start of the pandemic, putting the country’s caseload at fourth-highest in the world.

But they have only reported 55,265 deaths — a much lower fatality rate than in other badly hit countries.

Russia has been criticised for only listing COVID-19 deaths where an autopsy confirms the virus was the main cause.

Alexei Raksha, a demographer who left Rosstat in July, told AFP last week that the Russian health ministry and the consumer health ministry falsified coronavirus numbers.

Rosstat’s new figures mean that Russia now has the world’s third-highest COVID-19 death toll behind the United States with 333,140 and Brazil with 191,139, according to an AFP count.

Government resists imposing national lockdown

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking from behind a desk wearing a suit and tie.

President Vladimir Putin has told Russians that a national coronavirus lockdown is not necessary.(AP: Alexei Druzhinin)

The new figures came as authorities hold out against reimposing a nationwide lockdown in the hopes of buttressing a struggling economy even as the country is battered by a second wave of infections.

Russia’s Government predicts the economy will shrink by 3.9 per cent this year, while the Central Bank expects an even deeper decline.

During his annual end-of-year press conference earlier this month, Mr Putin rejected the idea of imposing the kind of lockdown many European countries introduced going into the Christmas holidays.

“If we follow the rules and demands of health regulators, then we do not need any lockdowns,” he said.

While strict measures have been imposed in some major cities, authorities in many regions have limited restrictions to mask-wearing in public spaces and reducing mass gatherings.

But many Russians flout social distancing rules and in recent weeks the country’s outbreak has overwhelmed poorly funded hospitals in the regions.

Vaccine scepticism hampers rollout

Close up of small vial with a cotton pad covering the opening and a label written in Russian.

Thousands of doctors, teachers and others in high-risk groups have signed up for the Sputnik V vaccine.(AP: Pavel Golovkin)

Russia has instead pinned its hopes on corralling its outbreak by vaccinating people en masse with its homemade Sputnik V jab, named after the Soviet-era satellite.

The country launched a mass vaccination programme earlier this month, first inoculating high-risk workers aged between 18 and 60 without chronic illnesses.

Over the weekend, people older than 60 got the green light to receive the shot.

On Monday, Sputnik V’s developer, the state-run Gamaleya research centre, said that around 700,000 doses had so far been released for domestic use.

However, Russia has not said how many people it has vaccinated so far, and according to recent surveys by state-run pollster VTsIOM and the Levada polling agency only 38 per cent of Russians plan to get the shot.

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