Russia has reported millions of COVID cases but has maintained a low mortality rate that has caused international observers to raise questions about the nation's official pandemic reporting.
This week, new data from Moscow revealed that the country's COVID death count is actually three times higher than previously reported, Sky News said Tuesday.
What is Russia's real death figure?
Before Monday, Russia had reported slightly more than 3 million confirmed COVID cases and approximately 55,000 deaths.
But new data reported Monday from Moscow's government statistics agency, Rosstat, revealed that the COVID death count is actually more than 186,000, according to Sky News. This would move Russia from being the country with the eighth-highest number of total deaths to the third-highest — ranking behind the U.S. (335,000) and Brazil (191,000).
Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously claimed that his country's low number of deaths was because of his people's effective handling of the pandemic.
However, analysts said the surprisingly small fatality rate was due to the fact that the government had required that, in order for a death to be counted as an official COVID fatality, COVID had to be listed on an autopsy as the main cause of death.
Rosstat revealed Monday that the number of total deaths from all causes in 2020 (from January through November) was up 229,700 compared to the same time last year. According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, "more than 81%" of those extra deaths were due to COVID," Sky News said, which means more than 186,000 Russians died from the virus over that 11-month period.
Golikova's take on the data has yet to be reflected in any of Russia's official COVID reports.
Russia is hoping its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which the government claims is 95% effective, will have a serious impact on its growing COVID numbers.
But there's a catch with the vaccine that is bad news for a lot of Russians: Patients need to abstain from alcohol for about two months during the inoculation process.
Golikova warned would-be vaccine patients that they must not only continue virus mitigation efforts — wearing face masks, socially distancing, using sanitizers — but also "refrain from drinking alcohol or taking immunosuppressant drugs."