Russia Discloses Third-Highest Covid-19 Deaths Globally in 2020
(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s death toll from Covid-19 in 2020 was nearly three times the level generally cited by the government, catapulting its total number of fatalities from the pandemic to the third-most globally.
The Federal Statistics Service reported 44,435 deaths linked to Covid-19 in December in a statement Monday, lifting the full-year total to 162,429. The government’s virus response center, which provides daily updates, reported 57,555 Covid-19 deaths in 2020.
In total, 2,124,479 Russians died in 2020, nearly 324,000 more than the previous year, according to the statistics service. Deaths in December were 63% higher than in the same month in 2019.
The data demonstrate that the fallout from the novel coronavirus has been far worse than officials initially reported, even as President Vladimir Putin resisted locking down the country during the second, more severe wave of infections that started in the fall. Only the U.S. and Brazil reported more epidemic deaths last year.
December was the deadliest month for Russia in the pandemic, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said in a televised briefing Monday. Preliminary data for January show “a steady decline in mortality rates” alongside a reduction in infections, she said.
Russia’s population shrank overall by nearly 700,000 people last year, the statistics service reported, more than twice the decline registered in 2019 and the worst shrinkage since 2005.
The figures are a blow to Putin’s long-held goal of reversing Russia’s demographic decline. He has promoted a series of benefits aimed at increasing the birthrate and has overseen dramatic gains in life expectancy.
Russia has pinned its hopes for taming the pandemic on domestically developed vaccines, with Putin ordering universal access to the inoculation in December, though take-up remains slow. He boasted at a televised meeting on science Monday that Russia is the only country in the world with three of its own Covid-19 vaccines.
February or March could be the turning point after which the pandemic could begin to ease, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said Jan. 29, according to Tass news service. The authorities aim to vaccinate about 60% of the adult population in the first half of the year, he said.
Even before the main Sputnik V vaccine is widely distributed, the infection rate has been falling. New daily cases are down by about a third from their December highs, and some regions have begun to ease restrictions intended to limit the spread of the virus.
In Moscow, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has allowed restaurants and bars to stay open all night long and dropped a requirement that employers keep at least 30% of their workers home.
(An earlier version of this story corrected the date of the health minister’s comment to Jan. 29)
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