Russia has confirmed that it has been underreporting its coronavirus death toll, announcing that the actual number of fatalities related to the pandemic is more than three times higher than previously released figures.
The admission would place Russia third behind the United States and Brazil in terms of COVID-19 fatalities.
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The Rosstat statistics agency said on December 28 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 Tatiana Golikova said. The percentage increase would mean that more than 186,000 Russians have died from COVID-19, whereas recorded figures stand at around 54,500 deaths and more than 3 million infections.
Golikova added that death rates in November-December were higher than other periods due to the "autumn/winter period, when the spread of COVID-19 is increasing in combination with other diseases."
Rosstat on December 28 announced that 23,610 deaths in Russia were attributed to COVID-19 in November alone, whereas the initial figure for that month was recorded as 19,626. Rosstat said that the additional deaths had been assumed to be coronavirus-related, but that additional medical research was required to confirm it.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Russia has consistently downplayed its impact even as outside observers suggested that the casualty count was far too low. Earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had done a better job managing the pandemic than Western countries and rejected introducing a nationwide lockdown.
Some of the disparity is attributed to Russia only listing deaths as coronavirus-related if COVID-19, rather than other causes such as upper respiratory infections, were listed in the autopsy as the cause of death.