Coronavirus News Asia

Russia’s suspiciously low Covid mortality rates

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In St Petersburg, Russia’s third coronavirus hotspot after Moscow, the capital. and the Moscow Region, self-isolation rules are only loosely enforced. City parks and streets are filled with people enjoying spring, which is warmly welcomed is this cold Baltic city. 

“It’s difficult to wear a mask when it’s so warm in the street – people need to breathe,” says Aisha, 23, who works in a pharmacy on the outskirts of the city. “But it’s not that bad as high temperatures reduce the virus’s spread.”

“I feel the epidemiological dynamic in Russia is quite good. As a megalopolis, Saint Petersburg is doing pretty well,” she added. 

Aisha’s relaxed attitude is partly due to the low number of coronavirus casualties locally – 150, a relatively low number for a city with a population of over 5 million. 

Her mother Lyudmila, 50, is not too worried about the virus either; she is much more concerned about the economic situation. Her son, who works in the service industry, lost his job due to the lockdown. “I really hope this will end soon. We were hit very hard economically.”

As the coronavirus outbreak in Russia finally peaked in mid-May, the country started to slowly loosen quarantine restrictions. Even so, the virus has now spread right across the world’s biggest country, to the point that Russian infections have now re-infected China.

Moreover, with the country’s GDP dropping by 28% in April due to the lockdown measures, President Vladimir Putin’s approval rates are down: according to the independent pollster Levada Center, 59% of Russians currently favor Putin – a record low for him. 

Putin’s big plans for 2020, which included a nationwide referendum to alter the constitution, thereby granting him a reelection opportunity in 2024, and a glorious military parade for the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany, have both been postponed due to the pandemic.

However, it is the nation’s real number of Covid dead that is raising questions – questions that are even being asked in mainstream media outlets that are usually highly supportive of the president.  

High infections, low deaths

Despite boasting the world’s third-highest number of Covid-19 infections after Brazil and the US, Russia has suffered a remarkably low death toll. The case mortality rate of those infected is only 1%, a staggeringly low figure if compared to the other countries hit hardest by the virus. The UK’s mortality rate is 14% and Spain’s is 12%.

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