Over 60 percent of deaths linked to the Chinese coronavirus in Moscow are not being recorded as official coronavirus deaths, local health officials revealed on Wednesday.
Moscow, which is the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, has recorded a surprisingly low mortality rate compared to other capital cities, with allegedly just 1,232 deaths out of 126,004 infections as of Wednesday. However, experts have cast doubt on the numbers in part because Russia is only counting the deaths of coronavirus-positive patients toward its total if doctors can confirm the virus played a direct role in their death.
“Over 60 percent of deaths occurred from obvious alternate causes, such as vascular accidents, stage four malignant diseases, leukemia, systemic diseases linked to organ failure and other incurable deadly diseases,” Moscow’s Health Department said in a statement Wednesday, adding that it is “incorrect to compare monthly death rates.”
Officials last month reported 639 deaths caused directly as a result of coronavirus and approximately 1,597 deaths of people testing positive for the virus, but allegedly dying of other causes.
The government statement, which sought to refute claims of under-reporting, continued:
Of the total number of deaths in April 2020, 639 are people whose cause of death is coronavirus infection and its complications, most often pneumonia.
It should be emphasized that the pathological autopsy of the dead with suspected coronavirus in Russia and Moscow is carried out in 100 percent of cases, unlike most other countries. Therefore, post-mortem diagnoses and causes of death recorded in Moscow are ultimately extremely accurate, and mortality data is completely open.
Preliminary data published by the Moscow Times has indicated a 20 percent rise in fatalities across the city’s hospitals compared with the average April death toll over the past decade.
Last week, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced an extension of citywide lockdown and warned that the real number of Chinese coronavirus cases could be three times that of the official figures. With the number of infected last week documented at around 100,000, Sobyanin estimated that around 300,000 residents, equivalent to around 2.5 percent of the city’s population, have contracted the virus.
Questions over if people have died from or merely with the coronavirus go to the very heart of the debate about the severity of the pandemic. Those who believe the threat is exaggerated generally argue that a majority of recorded deaths are of people who died infected but killed by a more serious health condition. Lockdown proponents often claim that the coronavirus is responsible for many more deaths than are being officially recorded, as the infection can turn the symptoms of other diseases deadly when they would have otherwise been manageable.
Many medical professionals in Russia have complained about a lack of resources, particularly personal protective equipment (PPE), and many have chosen to quit their jobs. Three doctors opposed to the Kremlin’s approach have also fallen out of windows in mysterious circumstances. Two separate fires at hospitals reportedly caused by malfunctioning ventilators killed six people.