In “Russia admits to world’s third-worst Covid-19 death toll”, AFP reported in the Guardian yesterday that Russia’s Rosstat statistics agency is now saying Russia’s COVID-19 death toll is more than three times that previously reported. The number of all-causes deaths in Russia from January through November is now estimated to be 229,700 greater than last year, and Rosstat says that more than 81% of this increase is due to COVID-19. Previously Rosstat had reported only 55,265 deaths, by reporting only deaths where an autopsy confirms COVID-19 as the primary cause.
Because of this new report, Russia’s cumulative COVID-19 death toll is now 130 per 100,000 population, a death rate that is greater even than those of the US (101 per 100,000), the UK (107 per 100,000), and Italy (120 per 100,000) — I am relying on this morning’s New York Times database for all but the new Russian numbers, and different countries count in different ways so these figures should not be considered to be exact.
Until now, Russia has consistently underplayed its vulnerability to COVID-19. In March, Russian president Vladimir Putin boasted “The situation is generally under control.” (Needless to say, this was incorrect.) Yesterday, in “Russian Coronavirus Fatalities Much Higher Than Initially Reported”, RFE/RL reported:
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.
Lest Americans be too smug about Russia’s misinforming its own people, last week in “How many died of COVID from Thanksgiving gatherings? In Florida, you won’t know until after New Year’s”, the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Cindy Krischer Goodman and David Fleshler reported:
Florida’s public tally of COVID-19 deaths is now so behind that on some days, nearly half of the deaths reported actually occurred two months earlier, public health data shows…. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has played down the danger of the virus to all but the elderly and often touts Florida’s low death rate.
It is conceivable that, once final numbers are in, the US COVID-19 official death toll per capita will again lead that of Russia. Whether this will happen partly depends on what the respective governments do, partly on what their people will do, and partly on how accurate their COVID-19 reporting is.