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Russia’s COVID toll hits 578,000 after deadliest month

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Moscow (Reuters) – Russia’s COVID-19 death toll has reached at least 578,020, the third worst in the world, according to Reuters calculations based on official statistics for October, the country’s deadliest month so far.

Russia ranks behind the United States and Brazil with around 787,000 and 615,000 deaths respectively, according to Reuters calculations, having overtaken India in October.

Figures released on Friday by the official statistics agency Rosstat showed at least 74,893 people died from COVID-19 or related causes in October, exceeding the previous peak of 51,044 in July.

The surge followed the start of the school year and was driven by the Delta variant and a slow vaccination rate, Russian authorities said. Many people are reluctant to trust the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine despite repeated appeals from President Vladimir Putin.

Russia imposed a week-long nationwide workplace shutdown at the start of November to curb infections. On Friday it reported 32,930 new cases and 1,217 deaths in the previous 24 hours – both down from November peaks, but still high.

The country has yet to report a case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and Putin has told the government to draw up an action plan to fight it.

Reuters calculated the overall death toll of 578,020 based on Rosstat figures for October and data from the Russian coronavirus task force for November and early December, for which the Rosstat records have yet to be published.

On a per capita basis, Reuters calculations show Russia’s COVID-19 death rate of almost 400 per 100,000 people is worse than the United States and Brazil, which have much bigger populations.

Some epidemiologists say that measuring excess mortality is a meaningful way to assess the true impact of the pandemic. Russia recorded around 725,000 excess deaths since the beginning of the outbreak to the end of October, compared to average mortality in 2015-2019, Reuters calculations based on the latest Rosstat data show.

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