Russia said on Monday that its coronavirus death toll was more than three times higher than it had previously reported, making it the country with the third-largest number of fatalities.
For months, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has boasted about Russia’s low fatality rate from the virus, saying earlier this month that it had done a better job at managing the pandemic than western countries.
But since early in the pandemic, some Russian experts have said the government was playing down the country’s outbreak.
On Monday, Russian officials admitted that was true. The Rosstat statistics agency said that the number of deaths from all causes recorded between January and November had risen by 229,700 compared with the previous year.
“More than 81% of this increase in mortality over this period is due to Covid,” said the deputy prime minister, Tatiana Golikova, meaning that more than 186,000 Russians have died from Covid-19.
Russian health officials have registered more than 3m infections since the start of the pandemic, putting the country’s caseload at fourth-highest in the world.
But they have only reported 55,265 deaths – a much lower fatality rate than in other badly hit countries.
Russia has been criticized for only listing Covid deaths where an autopsy confirms the virus was the main cause.
Alexei Raksha, a demographer who left Rosstat in July, told AFP last week that the Russian health ministry and the consumer health ministry falsify coronavirus numbers.