Russia ‘covering up true coronavirus death figures’ as it reports just one dead
The coronavirus is a devastating pandemic with thousands of cases on every continent – reports of new cases pour in daily from every country but with one notable exception.
Official figures from Russia – a country of some 146 million people – show just 253 confirmed cases and only one death.
The tiny European state of Luxembourg, with a population of just 628,000, has already reported eight deaths from its 670 diagnosed coronavirus infections.
The Russian government certainly moved swiftly to prevent a major outbreak.
President Vladimir Putin closed the country’s 2,600 mile long border with China on January 30 and any isolated cases were quickly quarantined.
Dr Melita Vujnovic, the World Health Organization's representative in Russia, told CNN that testing began in Russia in late January and “social distancing is the second component that really also started relatively early".
But the numbers being reported by Russian authorities are so low that many suspect a cover-up.
A social media post alleging that there were over 20,000 coronavirus cases in Russia went viral before being quashed by the state security service.
There are also reports that the testing equipment being used in Russia is substandard and that thousands of cases could have been missed.
David Berov, the first confirmed coronavirus patient in Moscow, wrote on Instagram that he was tested three times for the disease, and that one of the tests didn’t work.
He claimed: "The virus was confirmed in my third test, it was not seen in my blood but was in my saliva.
"As I was told, they could barely see it so that's why they were in doubt for so long."
Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of Russia's Alliance of Doctors trade union, released a video accusing the authorities of covering up the true scale of the problem in Russia by "burying" coronavirus cases in figures for other diseases such as pneumonia.
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"While the whole world is facing an outbreak of a new coronavirus, Russia is facing an outbreak of a community-acquired pneumonia," she claimed.
"And as usual, we're facing the lies of the authorities."
She also said that there was a dangerous shortage of masks and other protective gear.
Appealing to her fellow doctors, Vasilyeva said: "Colleagues, you have been mobilised for the fight with the so-called community-acquired pneumonia, and simultaneously they make you hide the real situation, keep silent about the absence of protective equipment.
"They make you sew yourself gauze facial masks and wash them. They don't provide you with the protective suits. They put at risk you and all our country. This is silliness of the authorities. Officials want to avoid the panic."
In response to Vasilyeva's video, the Moscow Department of Health said: "Since Moscow has strengthened preventive measures and improving the quality of treatment for pneumonia, three hospitals… are used as places for finding specialised patients."
Responding to the specific accusation of inadequate equipment for doctors, the department added that it "denied information about the lack of protective masks, suits and forcing doctors to treat non-coronavirus patients”.
It accused Vasilyeva of spreading “misinformation”.
The truth will undoubtedly one day be revealed, and the world will know whether Russia is demonstrating the best way of dealing with a global pandemic or engaging in a Chernobyl-style cover-up.
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