Russian doctors distrust official Covid-19 numbers, poll shows

Some Russian regions have reported significantly higher mortality rates. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (BLOOMBERG) - About half of Russian doctors don't trust the country's official Covid-19 statistics, according to a new survey, amid suspicions that the government is under-reporting the scale of the coronavirus outbreak.

The real number of cases is higher than the official one, 49 per cent of doctors said, according to the poll.

Only 23 per cent said the statistics are accurate, while 9 per cent said the reported numbers overstate the reality. The death toll looked unreliable to 47 per cent of doctors.

Of the 60 per cent of doctors surveyed who treated Covid-19 patients, a higher number - 54 per cent - believed the official number of cases understates the reality.

The poll, first reported by the Vedomosti newspaper, was conducted June 8-17 among 502 doctors by a team of researchers from the Moscow-based Levada Centre and Public Opinion Foundation for the ESOMAR Got Talent contest.

With almost 700,000 reported Covid-19 cases - ranking fourth in the world - and 10,494 deaths, the Russian coronavirus mortality rate is 1.5 per cent, relatively low compared to the global one of 4.7 per cent.

Some Russian regions such as the capital Moscow have reported significantly higher mortality rates by including people diagnosed with the virus whose deaths were officially determined to be from other causes.

"Opinion polls have already shown that Russians have little trust in the official coronavirus statistics," Mr Stepan Goncharov, a pollster at Levada, said by phone.

"Doctors are the most well informed as they are people who have had direct experience of the pandemic and they too are sceptical about the data."

A spokesperson for the government's virus-response staff didn't respond to a request for comment on the poll.

Russian officials defend the figures as accurate, noting that the death count is based on detailed autopsies.

But the World Health Organisation has also questioned Russia's death rate.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.