Russia admits its Covid deaths are third-worst in the world with 186,000 casualties – THREE times higher than it claimed
RUSSIA has admitted today to having the world's third-highest Covid death toll with more than 186,000 casualties.
President Vladimir Putin had previously 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.
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But since early in the pandemic, some Russian experts have said the government was playing down the country's outbreak – and officials have now 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 percent of this increase in mortality over this period is due to Covid," Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said.
More than 186,000 Russians have now died from Covid-19. They had previously only reported 55,265 deaths, a much lower fatality rate than in other badly-hit countries.
Russia has registered more than three million infections since the start of the pandemic, putting the country's caseload at fourth-highest in the world.
Russia has been criticised for only listing Covid deaths where an autopsy confirms the virus was the main cause.
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.
There have been claims for months that the daily death toll figures in Russia were false.
In November, Russian beauty queen Olga Kagarlitskaya, 37, filmed a video of corpses piled high in a morgue in Samara as she tried to find the body of her dad who died from coronavirus.
Olga claimed officials were denying that health workers – like her dad – had died from Covid to avoid making compensation payments.
The updated figures came as authorities hold out against reimposing a nationwide lockdown in the hopes of aiding the struggling economy.
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, Putin rejected the idea of imposing the kind of lockdown many European countries introduced going into the Christmas holidays.
He said: "If we follow the rules and demands of health regulators, then we do not need any lockdowns."
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.
Many Russians are flouting social-distancing rules, however, and in recent weeks the country's outbreak has overwhelmed poorly-funded hospitals in the regions.
Russia has instead pinned its hopes on halting its outbreak by vaccinating people with its Sputnik V jab.
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 – including 68-year-old Putin, who will take the shot, a Kremlin spokesman confirmed.
Sputnik V's developer, the state-run Gamaleya research centre, said that around 700,000 doses had been released for domestic use.
However Russia has not said how many people it has vaccinated so far, and according to recent surveys only 38 per cent of Russians plan to get the shot.
Professor Alexander Gintsburg, the designer of the Sputnik vaccine, boldly claimed their jab will offer two years of protection against Covid-19.
He also calmed the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is unlikely to protect for longer than five months.
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