As coronavirus infections in Russia surge toward 200,000, the government’s senior health official is pointing to a low mortality rate as a sign that the hospital system is coping with the pandemic.
“Mortality rates in the country indicate that the system is holding up and that medical personnel, doctors, nurses and paramedics are clearly fulfilling their duty,” Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said at a meeting of the ruling United Russia party Friday, according to the state-run Tass agency.
Russia has averaged more than 10,000 new cases daily in the past week, pushing the country higher than Germany to rank sixth among Covid-19 diagnoses globally. But when it comes to fatalities, Russia is an outlier, the only one among the 10 most-affected that has a death rate below 1%. The U.K. and France have mortality rates higher than 12% for the virus, while the U.S. comes in at 6% and Germany at 4.4%.
Critics say Russia may be under-reporting the lethality of Covid-19 by blaming deaths on other conditions.
Opposition politician Leonid Volkov posted a link on his Facebook page Thursday to official guidelines that were in effect in April that recommended naming the underlying conditions as the cause of death for people infected with Covid-19.
Hospitals around the country, many of which are underfunded and poorly equipped, have served as vectors for spreading the virus. Opposition groups and medical unions criticize the authorities for not providing adequate safety equipment to health care workers. An unofficial memorial list of medical workers who have died during the pandemic includes more than 100 from Russia.
Despite the persistently low mortality rate, President Vladimir Putin has maintained a lockdown for most Russians since late March. The policy has so far failed to lead to a decline in cases, while the economy is showing the strain. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases reported Friday showed a 6% increase to 187,859.
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