Russia’s Covid Death Toll Surges to Record in October
(Bloomberg) -- Russia suffered the most fatalities of the Covid-19 pandemic in October, according to official data released Friday, adding to what a demographer says is on track to be the deadliest year since World War II.
There were 74,839 deaths associated with the virus in October, a 47% increase over the previous monthly high in July, according to Federal Statistics Service data published late Friday. Russia has had over 575,000 deaths linked to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Russia’s natural population decline -- not including migration -- this year will be over a million people, a peacetime record, according to Alexei Raksha, a demographer who left the state statistics agency last year after claiming the government was manipulating coronavirus data. Officials deny the allegation.
Russia has struggled with a low vaccination rate and cases reached a record last month. The country’s soaring death rate is undermining President Vladimir Putin’s goal of boosting population growth.
“Russia has failed at vaccination, and as a result the death rate in Russia since the beginning of 2021 has remained at a very high level,” Ilya Kashnitsky, a demographer from the University of Southern Denmark, said. “Vaccination is a good illustration of the problem of mistrust in power.”
Russia reported 32,930 new cases Friday, down from a record 41,335 on Nov. 6, according to official statistics. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said this week the Covid-19 situation in the capital, which has been the hardest-hit city, has stabilized. The country has not yet reported an omicron infection.
The pandemic has upended Putin’s focus on demographics, which in his 21 years in power has included a health care overhaul and cash payments to new mothers and helped add nearly a decade to life expectancy before Covid-19 emerged. The pandemic last year caused the biggest population decline in over a decade.
“Demographics is one of our main problems due to humanitarian and economic considerations, and because we need to strengthen our statehood,” Putin said this week. “This miserable disease has unfortunately increased the death rate and this has demographic effects as well.”
Raksha forecasts about 225,000 deaths in December, including 75,000 excess deaths. Life expectancy this year will fall to under 70, a decline of more than 3 1/2 years compared to pre-pandemic 2019, he said.
Russia reports full data on pandemic fatalities with a substantial lag. The October figures were more than twice the official Covid-19 task force’s daily calculations.
The crisis hasn’t significantly boosted demand for vaccines, despite widespread availability of a locally developed Covid-19 inoculation that has been shown to be effective against the virus. Just over half of Russians have immunity, according to data from the government’s coronavirus task force.
“The number of cases has decreased by half since the end of October, but recently the decline has almost stopped,” Raksha said, who uses queries on the popular Yandex search engine to estimate trends. “And so, we are sitting on a high plateau and waiting for omicron.”
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