Russian statistics soar for virus-linked deaths in 2020

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FILE - In this Wednesday, June 3, 2020 file photo, medical workers wearing protective gear to protect against coronavirus infection, carry a patient at infectious diseases hospital where patients with coronavirus are treated in St.Petersburg, Russia. Russias updated statistics on coronavirus-linked deaths show that 162,429 people with COVID-19 had died in the pandemic last year, a number much higher than previously reported by government officials. The state statistics agency, Rosstat, released figures for December on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021 updating its count of coronavirus-linked deaths that includes cases where the virus wasnt the main cause of death and where the virus was suspected but not confirmed. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, File)

MOSCOW – Russia issued updated statistics Monday on coronavirus-linked deaths which showed that 162,429 people with COVID-19 died last year, a number far higher than previously reported by government officials.

The state statistics agency, Rosstat, released its figures for December on Monday, updating its count of coronavirus-linked deaths that includes cases where the virus wasn’t the main cause of death and where the virus was suspected but not confirmed.

Out of more than 162,000 deaths between April and December, 86,498 were directly caused by confirmed COVID-19; 17,470 other deaths were likely caused by the virus, but it wasn'tt confirmed by a test. In 13,524 cases, the virus “significantly" contributed to fatal complications of other diseases, and 44,937 people tested positive for the virus but died of other causes.

Rosstat’s count is much higher than the tally reported by the Russian government’s coronavirus task force, which is reflected in the numbers released by the World Health Organization. By Jan. 1, the task force reported a total 57,555 deaths.

As of Monday, the number stood at 77,068.

Russian officials ascribe that to different counting methods, saying the task force only includes deaths where COVID-19 was the main cause.

Officials also said the task force uses data from medical facilities while Rosstat takes its numbers from civil registry offices where registering a death is finalized.

December accounted for the highest number of Russian deaths since April — 44,435, according to Rosstat. That’s when new coronavirus infections in Russia soared and officials regularly reported over 27,000 daily new cases.