Russian officials dismiss Meduza investigation on underreporting of COVID-19 statistics
Russian officials have dismissed Meduza’s recent joint investigation with Mediazona and Holod Media, which revealed that Russian health officials appear to have registered as many as 29 million suspected cases of COVID-19 — a number that’s five times higher than what’s reported in official statistics.
On Thursday, July 22, the Russian Health Ministry told the business newspaper Kommersant that the data cited in the investigation is “nothing more than fantasies.” Though the Health Ministry confirmed that it’s responsible for a federal information resource on the coronavirus, it said that in addition to logging COVID-19 patients, the registry includes data on pneumonia patients, individuals vaccinated against COVID-19, and other people who fall into unnamed “categories.” As of July 21, this database included 39 million entries, the ministry noted.
The journalists who worked on the investigation figured out the approximate number of entries in the Health Ministry’s coronavirus registry based on the numbers assigned to certificates issued by the government as proof of recovery from COVID-19. As it turned out, the certificate numbers contained the same digits as the unique registry record number generated by the Health Ministry’s coronavirus database.
“Moreover, the unique registry record number isn’t an across-the-board sequence number — the algorithm for its creation is non-linear and takes into account several factors,” the Health Ministry added in its comment to Kommersant, without providing any clarifying details.
During a press briefing on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that he had read the investigation and it “absolutely does not reflect reality.”
“I read Meduza. I didn’t understand anything from what was written there. It’s some kind of cut-and-paste job, it’s something unclear. I’ll say this to you absolutely honestly. There’s no need to appeal to this publication. It absolutely doesn’t reflect reality. [...]
I gave you an explanation regarding Meduza’s publication. Rospotrebnadzor responded to it and so on. Well, it’s completely incomprehensible. I don’t even presume to comment on it and I don’t want to.”
Commenting on the investigation’s findings, Russia’s federal operational headquarters for the fight against the coronavirus previously claimed that the journalists had mixed up the data from the coronavirus registry with information from a vaccination database. At the time, the Health Ministry said that the comment from the operational headquarters also reflected its position. However, it follows from the comment to Kommersant that the coronavirus and vaccination records are contained in a single registry and not in separate ones, as previously implied.
According to official statistics, as of Thursday morning, Russia has registered 6,053,711 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.