Russia sees mortality hike in July amid surge in infections

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FILE – In this Monday, July 12, 2021 file photo, a medical worker administers a shot of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Gostinny Dvor, a huge exhibition place in Moscow, Russia. Russia’s health officials have given a go-ahead to testing a combination of the AstraZeneca coronavirus shot and the single-dose version of the domestically developed Sputnik V vaccine. The country’s registry of approved clinical trials shows the small study was scheduled to start July 26 and to enroll 150 volunteers. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia saw mortality rise at a faster pace last month amid a surge in coronavirus infections, a senior official said Friday.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who leads the government’s coronavirus task force, told the Tass news agency that Russia saw a 17.9% increase in mortality in July, year-on-year. She attributed the rise to swelling COVID-19 infections blamed on the more contagious delta variant.

In June, mortality rose by 14.1 over June 2020, according to the Rosstat state statistics agency.

Rosstat said 27,118 people who had coronavirus died in June, about 43% more than the previous month. It marked the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths since January, when the agency reported about 37,900 deaths of people with COVID-19.

Of the total number of deaths of people with coronavirus in June, COVID-19 was the primary cause of death for 23,372 people while 3,746 others who tested positive for coronavirus died of other causes.

Russia has been struggling with a surge of infections since early June, with daily new cases rising from about 9,000 at the beginning of the summer to over 23,000 in early July.

On Friday, the task force reported 22,660 new infections and 792 coronavirus deaths.

Overall in the pandemic, the government’s coronavirus task force has reported a total of about 6.4 million confirmed infections and 163,301 deaths.

However, reports by Rosstat that tally coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal much higher numbers. According to Rosstat, last year alone COVID-19 was the cause of 144,691 deaths.

Russian officials ascribe the difference to varying counting methods. They note that the government task force only includes deaths where COVID-19 was the main cause and uses data from medical facilities, while Rosstat takes its numbers from civil registry offices where registering a death is finalized, which allows for a fuller picture.

Rosstat recorded a total of 1.1 million deaths of all causes in the first six months of the year, 16.2% more than during the same period last year. Russia’s population, which fell by about 689,000 last year further declined by some 422,000 in January-June.

Russia’s vaccination rates have lagged behind other nations. Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said Thursday that 38.9 million Russians — or about 27% of the 146 million population — have received at least one shot of a vaccine.

Facing a surge in new infections and low vaccine uptake, authorities in many Russian regions have made vaccinations mandatory for certain groups, like those employed in health care, education, retail, public transport, government offices and the services sector.

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