Russia updates statistics on virus-linked deaths in 2020

Russia’s updated statistics on coronavirus-linked deaths show that 162,429 people with COVID-19 had died in the pandemic last year, a number much higher than previously reported by government officials.

The data released Monday by Russia’s state statistics agency, Rosstat, were for COVID-19 deaths between April and December, including cases where the virus wasn't the main cause of death and where the virus was suspected but not confirmed.

The highest number of deaths — 44,435 — was registered by Rosstat in December, when infections in Russia soared and officials regularly reported over 27,000 daily new coronavirus cases.

The agency's count is much higher than the 77,068 deaths that have been reported by the Russian government’s coronavirus task force so far, including deaths that occurred in January and February.

Russian officials ascribe the differences between the numbers reported by the task force and Rosstat to different counting methods, saying the task force only includes deaths where COVID-19 was the main cause.

Officials also said the task force uses data collected from medical facilities, while Rosstat takes its numbers from civil registry offices where the process of registering a death is finalized.

Rosstat started releasing detailed monthly updates on virus-linked deaths after the task force’s relatively low death count, which is reflected in the numbers released by the World Health Organization, raised eyebrows in the West as Russia’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases became one of the world’s largest.

Russia has so far reported more than 3.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases.