Russia’s high number of confirmed coronavirus cases but low number of deaths has raised questions about the veracity of Moscow’s reporting of the pandemic’s statistics. More than 60 percent of people who died in April after contracting coronavirus had their deaths ascribed to other causes, said city officials, indicating that their way of counting and attributing deaths is the most accurate.
As of yesterday May 13th, Russia reported 242,272 total cases rising at a rate of 10,000+ per day as a result of a massive testing programme. However, only 2,212 deaths have been reported, of which 1,232 were from Moscow. Unlike other countries, Russia conducts post mortem examinations on all deaths where coronavirus is suspected as the main cause. Diagnoses and causes of death recorded in Moscow are therefore extremely accurate, and mortality data is completely transparent.
“It’s impossible in other COVID-19 cases to name the cause of death. So, for example, in over 60 percent of deaths the cause was clearly for different reasons – such as vascular failures (such as heart attacks), stage four malignant diseases, leukaemia, systemic diseases which involve organ failure, and other incurable fatal diseases.”
Officials said only 639 people in Moscow had died in April as a direct result of the coronavirus and its complications such as pneumonia.
At the start of this blog on the Home page, I wrote that nearly 10% of people aged over 80 will die within the next year. Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, at the University of Cambridge points out that the risk of them dying, if infected with coronavirus, is almost exactly the same. That does not mean there will be no extra deaths – but, Sir David says, there will be “a substantial overlap”, which could be up to two thirds, according to Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial college.
This alternative way of defining deaths from coronavirus appears to bear out what our UK scientists were saying. It can be argued that this is indeed a more accurate way of reporting covid-19 deaths ; ie that most other countries are counting a proportion of deaths of elderly vulnerable people from nursing homes, whose deaths have been accelerated by coronavirus rather than being attributed as the direct cause.
TAlthough obviously not comparable with Russia, this is mirrored in England and Wales as indicated by the ONS data and graphs.
Main pre-existing conditions England & Wales
Here, we analyse deaths involving COVID-19 by the main pre-existing condition. This is defined as the one pre-existing condition that is, on average, most likely to be the underlying cause of death for a person of that age and sex had they not died from COVID-19. For more detail on how pre-existing conditions and main pre-existing conditions are derived, please see the accompanying methodology article, Measuring pre-existing health conditions in death certification – deaths involving COVID-19.
The most common main pre-existing condition in England and Wales was Dementia and Alzheimer disease, with 6,887 deaths (20.4% of all deaths involving COVID-19).