Russia nearly doubles estimate of COVID deaths for March

Russian policemen guard in front of the WWII victory anniversary parade decorations at Red Square in central Moscow on April 28, 2021. Russia will hold an annual military parade at Red Square on May 9, despite the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
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Jake Rudnitsky Bloomberg News (TNS)

Russia’s death toll from COVID-19 grew to 23,715 in March, up 86% compared with early official reports, as the government says it’s handling the pandemic as well or better than most countries.

The data released by the Federal Statistics Service after working hours on Friday includes people who were infected with the virus where it was not regarded as the cause of death. Fatalities in Russia linked to the epidemic rose to more than 85,000 in the first quarter.

President Vladimir Putin has regularly boasted about Russia’s response to COVID-19, highlighting domestically-developed vaccines and the country’s economic resilience after deciding against a second lockdown. The new data show Russia has among the world’s highest deaths globally.

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Russia’s vaccination campaign remains plodding, and the slow uptake is feeding fears of a new wave of infections. Putin has ordered the country to take an unplanned week-long holiday at the start of May to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The number of deaths in March was 2.7% less than in February despite new cases declining by 24% in the period.

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