Zari Garfield ‘21
Covid-19 has taken a toll internationally and the numbers continue to rise. As places like the U.S, India, Brazil, and Russia continue to experience an increase in cases, experts say with an increase in travel due to the holiday season, the situation will only get worse. More specifically, today in Russia, the virus is spreading faster than in many other places. They are currently the fourth highest country in Covid-19 cases: they have reported about 2,243,076 total cases with 474,801 active as of Friday, November 27th, with about 39,054 deaths. The scene in hospitals and morgues is a scary sight as patients are piling up by the minute. However, state media and official research by the Covid-19 response center continue to say that the virus is "complicated but manageable." As cases continue to rise this fall, the government has admitted to a strain on medical facilities as the hospitals are at 95% capacity. Many in the medical field are saying everything is a "mess" in the country right now and the government has continued to resist a full lockdown to protect the economy. But how did Russia get to this point?
On March 25th, 2020, Russia declared a lockdown and closed all but essential stores and services to stop the spread of the virus. The state media continued to report that Russia had nothing to worry about, as President Putin stated that Russia was doing well. Many of the citizens believed this information which led to many not practicing social distancing, continuing to travel, and not wearing masks. This lack of precaution in the spring has now caused the overload of Russian cases today. Still, the numbers and excess deaths tell a different story than officials are releasing. As Russia has been struggling to get everything under control, the evidence shows that the death toll is higher than what is being reported. Alexey Raksha, a former government statistician who has made estimates based on official data on excess deaths, states, "I think the real figure is [around] 130,000 people." Ever since the first coronavirus death, there have been discrepancies.
On March 19th, when a 79-year-old died in Moscow, her death was reclassified as blood clot-related instead of Covid-19, and this has been the case for many other deaths. This discontinuity between the official numbers and the calculations is due to how Russia classifies its casualties. Deaths are only recorded as Covid-related if the patient is positive for Covid-19 before dying. This standard leads to many other deaths left out of the official numbers, directly going against the World Health Organizations' guidelines to state all deaths as related to Covid-19 unless there is a "clear alternative cause that cannot be related" to the disease. Russia has been going against this guideline as over 70% of Covid deaths haven't been reported in Moscow and 80% in the country's regions because of how they are classifying and registering the deaths. Fortunately, as the situation has become more and more "unstable," the government has called for more restrictions, such as masks in public, fines for not abiding to safety precautions, reducing sporting events, and instating a curfew. As Russia and the rest of the world wait for a vaccine in the coming months, we can hope that these new precautions will lead Russia out of the pandemic.