The number of Russians killed by the COVID-19 last year was twice as high as previously thought, amounting to the world’s third-highest death toll for 2020, according to figures released by the country’s national statistics agency.
A total of 162,429 Russians died of the virus in 2020, the Rosstat agency said on February 8, the same day as the government coronavirus task force’s data said 77,068 people had died since the beginning of the pandemic, including deaths that occurred in the past month and this month so far.
Rosstat’s count of coronavirus-linked deaths includes cases where the virus wasn’t the main cause of death and where the virus was suspected but not confirmed.
The government task force’s figures only include cases where COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, was confirmed as the cause of death, a counting method which has been repeatedly criticized in the West as Russia’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases became one of the world’s largest.
According to Rosstat, December accounted for the highest number of deaths since April — 44,435. That’s when infections in Russia soared and officials regularly reported over 27,000 new coronavirus cases daily.
Rosstat’s data also showed that the number of deaths from all causes last year grew by 323,800, or nearly 18 percent, compared to 2019.
The statistics office found that Russia’s population shrank last year by its highest level in 15 years.
Russia has recently eased some of its pandemic restrictions, saying the situation has improved.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has allowed nightclubs and restaurants to open after weeks of being closed.
More people are also allowed in theaters, cinemas, and concert halls.
Children have also been permitted to return to school and students to attend universities.
Russia has reported more than 3.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases, the fifth-highest tally in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.