Russia records its highest ever one-day Covid death toll with 852 fatalities as cases rise following elections
Russia has reported its highest one-day Covid death toll of the whole pandemic as cases of the virus also spike.
The country saw 852 Covid deaths on Tuesday, the government said, which comes after more than two months of reporting around 770 deaths per day amid widespread suspicion the figures were being massaged.
Russia’s Covid cases, which had been in decline since mid-July according to official statistics, have also been rising sharply in the last two weeks and on Tuesday hit 21,559, up from to 18,796 a week before.
The rise in both cases and deaths come a little over a week after elections were held – which Putin’s party won amid claims of ‘unprecedented’ fraud.
Russia has been reporting around 770 Covid deaths a day for more than two months (pictured), but on Tuesday suddenly reported that the death toll had shot up to 852
After almost two months of decline, Covid cases have also started rising sharply in recent weeks – coinciding with the dates of the Russian parliamentary elections
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, has denied plans to reintroduce lockdowns to combat cases – saying only that the situation is being watched ‘closely’.
But Mozhem Obyasnit, an investigative newspaper that has been banned in Russia in the past, recently reported that at least six of the country’s 85 regions have begun reimposing restrictions to bring case totals down.
Lockdown measures including closing shops and forcing children to learn from home were put in place ‘immediately’ after the elections took place, the paper said.
The newspaper also quoted a source close to state government who said ‘the return of quarantine was discussed back in August, but these measures, at the request of the Kremlin, had to be postponed until the end of the elections to the State Duma.’
Russia has long been suspected of massaging its Covid figures and uses a particularly strict definition of what constitutes a Covid death – requiring a full autopsy to be carried out.
But eyebrows were raised further than usual when, in mid-July after a month of soaring deaths, Russia’s official count suddenly plateaued around 770 deaths a day.
Despite developing one of the world’s first Covid vaccines, Russia has fully jabbed less than a third of its population – with half saying they won’t get jabbed at all
That is despite the fact that Rosstat, the national statistics agency, continued publishing data that showed Covid deaths were double the official tolls.
Similar plateaus have been seen before in data published in Moscow, where they are referred to as Soybanin’s Shelf – after Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin.
Alexey Raksha, a data analyst who used to work for Rosstat, told ABC that such plateaus are ‘just impossible’ when it comes to natural data.
Based on excess mortality data published by Rosstat – which hoovers up all deaths above seasonal averages – Raksha estimated Russia’s true Covid death toll was nearing 500,000 by early August.
By the end of September, he said, the country’s toll will be ‘at least 700,0000.’
Russia has been hit particularly hard by the Delta variant of Covid because, despite developing the world’s first vaccine for the disease which tests show is effective, it has fully vaccinated less than a third of its population.
Polls show Russians are hugely vaccine-skeptic, with more than half saying they will not get inoculated against the disease.
The Kremlin initially set a goal of fully inoculating 60 percent of Russia’s population by September, but later dropped that target even though free jabs have been available since early December.
Putin has been forced to deny rumours about his own health after several members of his inner circle got sick, with the Kremlin releasing images of him on a camping trip this week (pictured) in an apparent attempt to reassure people
As of Tuesday, only 28 per cent of the population had been fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid data from the regions.
Putin himself has been affected, with the Kremlin forced to deny he is having heath troubles after several members of his inner circle got infected.
The Russian president abandoned a scheduled trip to Tajikistan earlier this month after going into self-isolation and did not campaign in person during the parliamentary elections.
But spokesman Peskov flatly denied that Putin himself had been ill, saying he was fully vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V jab back in April.
Asked if Putin tested negative for the virus, Peskov said: ‘Of course, yes.’
He did not say who among Putin’s contacts were infected, saying only that there were ‘several’ cases.
Just last week, the Kremlin released photos which they said showed Putin during a camping trip to Siberia earlier this month – apparently an attempt to allay health fears which bolstering his strongman image.
They showed him trekking through a remote area of Siberia, as well as fishing and hunting with defence minister Sergei Shoigu.