Russia announced on Monday that the coronavirus death toll was more than three times higher than previously reported, making it the country with the third highest death toll.
For months, President Vladimir Putin has boasted Russia’s low death rate from the virus, saying earlier this month that it did “better” job than western countries at managing the pandemic.
But since the pandemic began, some Russian experts have said the government downplayed the country’s outbreak.
Russian officials admitted on Monday that this was true.
The statistics agency Rosstat said the number of deaths increased by 229,700 between January and November for all reasons compared to the previous year.
“More than 81 percent of that increase in mortality over that period was due to Covid,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, which means over 186,000 Russians have died from Covid-19.
Russian health officials have registered more than three million infections since the pandemic began, making the country’s number the fourth highest in the world.
However, they have only reported 55,265 deaths – a much lower death rate than other hard-hit countries.
Russia has been criticized for listing only Covid 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 Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Consumer Health are falsifying the coronavirus numbers.
Rosstat’s new numbers mean Russia has the third highest Covid-19 death toll in the world, after the US at 333,140 and Brazil at 191,139, according to an AFP count.
The numbers came as authorities opposed reinstating a nationwide lockdown in hopes of propping up a weak economy even if the country suffers a second wave of infections.
The Russian government predicts the economy will contract 3.9 percent this year, while the central bank expects an even deeper decline.
During his annual end-of-year press conference earlier this month, Putin rejected the idea of enforcing the kind of lockdown many European countries had put in place over the Christmas holidays.
“If we follow the rules and requirements of the health authorities, we don’t need locks,” he said.
While tough measures have been imposed in some major cities, in many regions authorities have limited restrictions on wearing masks in public places and reducing mass gatherings.
But many Russians are breaking social distancing rules and in recent weeks the country’s outbreak has overwhelmed poorly funded hospitals in the regions.
Russia has instead set its hopes on combating its outbreak by mass vaccinating people with its homemade Sputnik V-jab, named after the Soviet-era satellite.
The country started a mass vaccination program earlier this month, which for the first time vaccinated high-risk people between the ages of 18 and 60 without chronic diseases.
Over the weekend, people over 60 were given the green light to get the shot.
On Monday, the developer of Sputnik V, the state-owned Gamaleya research center, announced that around 700,000 cans had been approved for domestic use so far.
However, Russia has not said how many people it has vaccinated so far, and according to recent polls by state pollster VTsIOM and electoral bureau Levada, only 38 percent of Russians plan to get the shot.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)