Russia will see a sharp rise in the mortality figures for May, officials said yesterday, as the coronavirus death toll rises.
The coronavirus causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
“There will be a significant mortality increase in May,” Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said at a government meeting with President Vladimir Putin, referring to official analysis and the country’s coronavirus curve.
“The illness and chronic conditions don’t always have a positive ending,” she said, despite doctors trying to “save the maximum number of patients”.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin also said that the capital’s death figures for May will be “considerably higher than in April”.
Russia registered 150 deaths from the coronavirus yesterday, its highest daily rate yet, amid criticism that the authorities are under-reporting the virus fatalities to play down the scale of the crisis.
Putin told officials yesterday to ramp up testing for the new coronavirus.
Speaking at a televised government meeting by video link, Putin said there had been a gradual decrease in the number of new infections reported daily in recent days and that the situation “as a whole is stabilising”.
“At the same time it is very important this decline happens against the backdrop of a constant and significant rise in the number of tests,” he said.
Health officials have reported a total of 3,249 virus-related deaths, a fraction of the number in some European countries, while Russia has the second-highest number of infections in the world, after the United States, with 326,448 cases.
Other countries with lower numbers of cases and more modern health systems, such as Italy, have reported ten times the number of deaths.
Russian officials said fatalities will rise in May due to the number of gravely ill patients in hospital.
Around 109,000 people are currently hospitalised, with some 2,500 of those in intensive care, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said yesterday.
The number in hospital has increased from 80,000 on May 6.
“The number of deaths from the coronavirus will be higher in May than in April, because the virus peak was at the beginning of May,” Sobyanin said. “The seriously ill are building up. Doctors try to save each one who lies there for two, three or more weeks ... unfortunately it’s not possible to save them all.”
Deputy Prime Minister Golikova said that around 4% of the current cases are in a grave condition, or around 9,000 people.
Some commentators said the statements were aimed at preparing Russians for much higher death figures.
“Based on Golikova and Sobyanin’s words, they are preparing the public for adjustment of coronavirus death statistics,” tweeted rights lawyer Pavel Chikov.
“Amazing, isn’t it? Just two days ago this same Golikova said the epidemic had almost passed,” tweeted Kira Yarmysh, spokeswoman for leading opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
Russian officials said earlier this week that the virus situation in the country is gradually becoming less acute.
Sobyanin said that Moscow – the worst-affected city – has managed to avoid the “worst-case scenario” and Putin said the “situation in the country as a whole is stabilising”.
High-profile hospitalised patients include Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who is suspected to have coronavirus, and Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Russia says its lower virus death figures are partly down to mass testing which has identified many coronavirus cases with mild or no symptoms.
The government insists that it records causes of death meticulously based on the results of autopsies and according to international standards set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
But experts say the methods used mean some coronavirus patients will be recorded with a different cause of death.
There is a considerable delay in releasing statistics and official death figures for the month of April will only be available on May 29.
Those figures are expected to give a clearer picture of whether there has been a large year-on-year increase in deaths that is not officially attributed to coronavirus.
Meanwhile, a poll of 509 doctors on an app called the “Doctor’s Handbook” cited by the Meduza news website on Thursday found that more than one-third of those surveyed had been ordered to attribute pneumonia deaths caused by Covid-19 to other causes.
The health ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the report.
The survey found almost 40% of medical professionals said they had inadequate supplies of personal protective equipment, while 23.4% said their hospitals were not ready to admit patients with suspected coronavirus infections.
Moscow began mass testing residents for virus antibodies this week.
Of 40,000 asymptomatic people tested, 14% showed traces of infection in their blood, according to a report by Open Media, a news outlet funded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
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