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Russia's Statistics Agency Says COVID-19 Deaths In September Nearly Double Official Numbers

Russian medics treat a patient suffering from COVID-19 in the intensive care unit of a hospital in the Russian city of Orel.
Russian medics treat a patient suffering from COVID-19 in the intensive care unit of a hospital in the Russian city of Orel.

At least 44,265 people died of COVID-19 and related causes in Russia in September, the country’s statistics agency, Rosstat, said.

The figure announced on October 29 brings to around 462,000 the number of deaths in Russia since the pandemic began, the highest toll in Europe.

Overall COVID-19 fatalities reported by Rosstat compares to 236,220 published by the Russian coronavirus task force earlier in the day. The task force tally said Russia saw 24,031 deaths in September.

Critics accuse Russian authorities of downplaying the death toll from the pandemic.

The discrepancy can be explained by task force figures taking into account deaths where the virus was established as the primary cause of death after a medical examination.

Rosstat publishes figures under a wider definition for deaths linked to the virus.

To more accurately measure the impact of the pandemic, some epidemiologists argue calculating excess mortality.

Reuters calculated that the number of excess deaths in Russia between April 2020 and September 2021 was more than 632,000 in comparison with the average mortality rate in 2015-2019, signaling that the pandemic may have had a much larger impact.

While Rosstat's September numbers are lower than a peak of 51,044 deaths in July, infections and fatalities have surged in October.

In response, Moscow reimposed a partial lockdown on October 28 with only essential shops like pharmacies and supermarkets allowed to remain open.

The country will also go into a weeklong nationwide workplace shutdown starting on October 30.

The surge in infections is largely attributed to the highly-infectious delta variant and low vaccination rates, with only one in three Russians fully vaccinated.

According to a Gallup poll released this week, three out of four unvaccinated Russians said they do not plan on getting a free shot.

The survey of 2,001 Russian citizens aged 15 or older was conducted by Gallup from May through July and published on October 28. The margin of error is 2.8 percent.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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