Jun 30, 2020
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HSE: completely ignoring coronavirus in Russia would kill almost 4 million people

The number of coronavirus victims in Russia could be 80 thousand more if it were not for quarantine measures and responsible human behavior. This was reported in a study of experts published on the website of the Higher School of Economics.

The authors of the report, “How many COVID-19 deaths were avoided by Russian society,” estimated possible losses from the epidemic using two models, one of which did not take into account quarantine measures and changes in people's behavior, and the other took them into account.

As the authors of the study indicate, in modern society there are three groups of factors that limit the spread of the disease and prevent mortality. The first group of factors acts directly at the level of society. The role of power here consists only in timely informing citizens who independently take preventive actions (isolation, minimization of external contacts, refusal of social, business and cultural activities associated with contacts with a large number of people, the use of sanitary and hygienic means).

Organizations also include protective mechanisms, including the transfer of workers to remote employment, paid and unpaid leave, restrictions on office hours, sanitary measures and monitoring the health of workers and visitors, and suspension of activities.

The second group of factors is actually related to government policy, which is designed to ensure the ability to comply with restrictive requirements. They include restrictions on the mode of operation and isolation of citizens and organizations, sanitary control, restriction and prohibition of the movement of people, economic support for enterprises and citizens, stimulation of production, direct ordering of sanitary goods and services to ensure their availability, organization of necessary import purchases. Finally, the third group of factors is the contribution of medicine to the diagnosis and treatment of patients, the identification and isolation of contacts.

According to the first model built by HSE experts, with the epidemic completely ignored, the number of coronavirus victims could reach 3.8 million people. The authors themselves call this estimate overvalued. It could be real if people lost the ability to learn and rationally process information. The authors came to this indicator using a logistic curve that did not take into account the influence of the healthcare system on the spread of the virus.

The second, more realistic model, which takes into account the health care system, quarantine measures and their observance by citizens, predicted 80 thousand deaths from coronavirus in Russia. It was the government’s measures and responsible behavior of citizens and companies that observed the precautionary measures that helped to preserve the specified number of lives, the study notes.

Earlier, the head of the WHO emergency program for health emergencies Mike Ryan said that it is difficult for him to understand the reason for the low mortality rate of people with the coronavirus COVID-19 in Russia, based on the number of residents and the number of infected.

He called on the Russian authorities to explain what method they use, stating the causes of death of patients with coronavirus. He called the current statistics difficult to understand. According to Ryan, in the European region, where there is high mortality, health systems are similar to Russian in terms of development and accessibility. At the same time, the expert emphasized that in some countries the mortality rate may be too high. Opposition politician and IT specialist Leonid Volkov believes that the Moscow Department of Health has virtually admitted that authorities have underestimated the mortality rate by a factor of three, since 1800 coronavirus deaths were previously reported in May. It was this figure that was entered in the databases and in the official report sent to WHO.

Later, the representative of WHO in Russia, Melita Vujnovich, said that the rates for coronavirus in Russia are really low, which looks unusual. At the same time, she said, the huge testing opportunities in the country allowed Russia to "have a very good picture of understanding" the epidemiological situation. In addition, Russia has adopted and is implementing the WHO guidelines for applying the international classification of the disease in relation to mortality, and the organization has no complaints about Russia in this regard.

The head of Rosstat Pavel Malkov explained the discrepancy between the data of the agency and the operational headquarters for the April mortality from coronavirus by different calculation methodologies. According to Malkov, the most up-to-date data on morbidity and mortality are published through the government headquarters, while Rosstat receives information on mortality from the coronavirus from the Unified State Register of Civil Status Register (registry office). From there, he collects primary medical death certificates and also receives final death certificates as they become available.

At the same time, the pandemic and quarantine restrictions have revealed the imperfection of the data collection scheme, which may affect the quality of statistics on mortality from coronavirus. So, at the time of registration of death of a coronavirus deceased, there may not yet be a final medical death certificate, the preparation of which takes up to 45 days. In addition, in some regions the obligation to register death at the registry office for subsequent burial is not legislatively fixed.

Anatoly Vishnevsky, director of the HSE Institute for Demography, noted that the final diagnosis is made on the basis of an autopsy and the conclusion of a pathologist, but in some regions, for example, in the Muslim republics, they try to avoid an autopsy and bury them faster, which is why it is possible to establish whether the deceased had a coronavirus will fail. The final mortality statistics will be published only in the summer of next year, after conducting all the reconciliation of data for the year. It is not ruled out that the desire to underestimate the number of deaths from a coronavirus on the ground: regional leaders begin to be punished for certain statistical data or indicate what numbers need to be achieved, which leads to a distortion of real data.

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