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120,000 too many Russia’s coronavirus mortality statistics at odds with spike in excess deaths during the pandemic, report says

Source: Media Zona
Evgeny Sofiychuk / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

The official mortality statistics from Russia’s operational headquarters for the fight against the coronavirus contradict the country’s excess mortality rate for 2020, says a new report from “Mediazona.” Based on data from Russia’s federal statistics agency and regional registry offices, “Mediazona” calculated that in the last seven months, Russia has seen 120,000 more people die than on average for this same period over the last five years. The country’s coronavirus headquarters, on the other hand, has only counted 28,200 deaths from COVID-19 during this period. 

Mediazona journalists based their calculations on the available mortality statistics for April to October 2020. Since Rosstat (the Federal State Statistics Service) has yet to publish countrywide mortality statistics for the month of October, they collected data from regional registry offices, in order to estimate the total mortality figure for last month (this data was available for 22 regions).

Mediazona’s resulting estimate, 120,000 excess deaths from April to October, is nearly four times higher than the coronavirus headquarter’s reported number of deaths from COVID-19 during this period (28,200).

According to the complete data available from Rosstat for April to September 2020, excess mortality in Russia during this period amounted to 106,000 people. According to Rosstat’s data, this include 55,600 deaths from the coronavirus infection. However, the country’s coronavirus headquarters reports just 20,700 deaths from COVID-19 between April and September.

That said, demographer Alexey Raksha told Mediazona that not all excess deaths are caused by the coronavirus directly — many of them are associated with the healthcare system being overburdened. “The emergency services are busy — someone has a heart attack, someone has something else. Planned surgeries are being postponed,” he explained.

Mediazona also noted that Russia’s regions vary in their handling of recording deaths linked to the pandemic. For example, in Tuva, Komi, St. Petersburg, Moscow, as well as the Moscow and Magadan regions, almost all excess mortality is linked to the coronavirus. In Chechnya, Tatarstan, Bashkiria, and the Lipetsk and Leningrad regions, on the other hand, there is no official explanation for excess deaths.

According to Mediazona’s calculations, July was the worst month of the pandemic so far — Russia’s overall mortality rate increased nearly 21 percent compared to the average values for the month of July in previous years. In October, according to the data available so far, 23 regions saw their total mortality rate increase by more than 32 percent. Rosstat is set to publish complete statistics for October in early December. 

Summary by Grigory Levchenko

Translation by Eilish Hart

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