17 Percent More Russians Died in 2021 Than 2020, Largely Due to COVID Surge

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova announced Thursday the country's mortality rate increased by 17 percent this year, attributing the growth to increased COVID-19 deaths in the country.

State statistics showed that over 87,500 Russians died of the virus just in November, breaking the country's record of most deaths reported in a month.

Though COVID-19 statistics from Reuters show average daily infections have fallen since the November peaks, many health experts worry what effect the highly contagious Omicron variant will have on Russia's case numbers.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Russia has the ninth highest population in the world. Out of its over 142 million residents, only 51 percent are fully vaccinated against the virus even though Russia approved its Sputnik V vaccine earlier than most countries approved theirs.

The Reuters data says Russia's deaths linked to COVID-19 far surpass the rest of Europe at approximately 656,900. For comparison, the next highest death toll is the United Kingdom's at about 148,000. Globally, Russia's number of deaths only falls behind the United States – the world's third most largely populated country – which was sitting at over 825,000 as of Thursday.

Russia's population has decreased by about 945,100 people since the beginning of 2021, with some predicting the figure could reach 1 million by the end of the year.

Moscow, Russia, COVID-19 vaccine
Though Russia's November COVID-19 case peak is decreasing again, health officials still worry the Omicron variant could negatively impact its population, which is only 51 percent vaccinated. Above, a homeless man receives a shot of the one-dose Sputnik Light COVID-19 vaccine against at the office of Nochlezhka, an aid group for the homeless, in Moscow on December 20, 2021. Photo by Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images

A report by Rosstat brought the overall number of virus-linked deaths between April 2020 and October 2021 to nearly 626,000—more than twice the widely-cited toll reported by Russia's state coronavirus task force to date. Rosstat uses broader criteria in its tallying system compared to the task force.

According to the Rosstat report, 71,187 deaths were caused directly by confirmed COVID-19, 8,939 deaths were likely caused by the virus but it wasn't confirmed by a test, in 1,477 cases the virus significantly exacerbated fatal complications of other diseases and 5,924 people tested positive for the virus but died of other causes.

The surge came amid low vaccination rates and poor compliance with coronavirus restrictions.

Russia in recent months has faced a tide of contagion with record numbers of infections and deaths. The situation has improved over the past few weeks, but the authorities are now bracing up for a new wave of infection caused by the omicron variant.

Russia on Friday reported 21,073 new cases and 926 deaths. The coronavirus task force has reported a total of nearly 10.5 million confirmed infections and 307,948 deaths in the pandemic—the number more than twice lower than that reported by the state statistics agency.

Russian officials have ascribed the differences in reporting death tallies to the fact that the task force only includes deaths for which COVID-19 was the main cause, and uses data from medical facilities. Rosstat uses broader criteria for counting virus-related deaths and takes its numbers from civil registry offices where registering a death is finalized.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

COVID-19, Sputnik V, Budapest, Hungary
Out Russia's over 142 million residents, only 51 percent are fully vaccinated against the virus even though Russia approved its Sputnik V vaccine earlier than most countries approved theirs. Although Hungary has secured vaccine doses from China and Russia in addition to those provided by the European Union, nearly a third of its adults still have not received a single shot. Above, a box of the Russian vaccine for coronavirus Sputnik V is prepared in Saint Margit Hospital in Budapest, Hungary, April 14. Zoltan Balogh/MTI via AP, File