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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russian Hospitals Underreporting Coronavirus Deaths, Federal Healthcare Monitor Chief Says


Paul Goble
            Staunton, September 7 – Anna Samoylova, head of the Russian government agency that monitors health care, says that some hospitals are reporting all coronavirus deaths as such while others are not, thus leading to an overall undercount of the mortality the pandemic has caused (medvestnik.ru/content/news/Glava-Roszdravnadzora-podtverdila-netochnost-rossiiskoi-statistiki-smertnosti-ot-COVID-19.html).
            Given how much pride Vladimir Putin has taken in the remarkably low death rate from the coronavirus reported by Moscow, it is no surprise that her words were immediately attacked by health minister Mikhail Murashko who said they were not based on analysis but on anecdotes (regnum.ru/news/3056431.html).
            Arguments about the trustworthiness of Russian coronavirus statistics continue, with ever more commentators suggesting the figures are being manipulated to hide the true dimensions of the tragedy and to suggest Russia is far closer to the end of the pandemic than it is (versia.ru/vtoraya-volna-uzhe-nachalas-no-ee-maskiruyut-statistikojand svpressa.ru/economy/article/275321/).
            One consequence of that is that Russians tend to overread any changes in the official statistics. Today, for the fourth day in a row, the number of those infected was above 5,000, a trend that some view as an indication that the epidemiological situation is again getting out of hand (newizv.ru/news/society/07-09-2020/v-rossii-chetvertyy-den-podryad-chislo-zabolevshih-covid-19-prevyshaet-5-tysyach).
            The official numbers in fact have gone up only slightly from the levels reported in recent weeks. The central reporting office said today it had registered 5185 new cases of infection and 51 coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours, bringing the respective totals to 1,030,690 and 17,871 (t.me/COVID2019_official/1441).
            Vaccine stories dominated the news in Russia today. The health ministry said that the first batches of the vaccine would begin to reach Russia’s regions next week (regnum.ru/news/3056131.html). It announced plans to immunize 60 percent of all Russians against the flu, a new record if it is achieved (regnum.ru/news/3055761.html),
            Medical experts are urging even those who have been infected with the coronavirus to get flu shots (regnum.ru/news/3055398.html). Clinical trials of Russia’s second coronavirus vaccine are supposed to conclude by the end of September (regnum.ru/news/3055686.html). And Tashkent is debating whether to buy the Russian or the Chinese medication (centralasian.org/a/30824907.html).
            The pandemic continues to ebb and flow across Russia with particular concern focusing on sharp rises of infection in schools both among pupils and teachers (regnum.ru/news/society/3051649.html). Polls show that the share of Russians following protective guidelines has risen to 72 percent (regnum.ru/news/3056097.html).
            As a result of these reports, another poll finds that Russians are roughly split on whether the country should return to an overall isolation regime, with 45 percent supporting that idea and 41 percent considering it unnecessary (vedomosti.ru/society/articles/2020/09/07/838947-doverie-covid-19).
            Moscow officials continue to suggest that the pandemic in Russia will be finally defeated by next summer but an Altay medical specialist says that residents of the country will  have to wear masks and practice social distancing for the rest of their lives, something few want to hear (amic.ru/news/467838/).
            On the economic front, specialists at the Higher School of Economics say that Moscow ranks high among the major cities of the world in terms of how effectively it responded to the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3056361.html). But other news was less upbeat: Russians are now having to borrow money to make down payments on apartments (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/79784).
            Politically, Levada sociologists Aleksey Levinson and Lyubov Borusyak say, the pandemic has affected public opinion on all issues, including political ones, and has become the language in which issues far from the medical are discussed (forbes.ru/obshchestvo/408325-kovid-v-golovah-chto-dumali-rossiyane-o-pandemii-karantine-i-vakcinacii).
            Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
·         Election officials are preparing to organize poll stations in hospitals to deal with the large numbers of people there for the coronavirus (regnum.ru/news/3056205.html).
·         Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the governors of Russia’s regions had “effectively used” the additional powers the Kremlin granted them during the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3055975.html).
·         And Moscow medical experts warned that the long-term effects of coronavirus infections are likely to spark other medical problems in the future and depress life expectancies (kp.ru/online/news/4004660/).

Window on Eurasia — New Series