A CNN investigation has revealed startling new evidence of how Russia may be severely understating the impact of Covid-19 across the country.
Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance reports that videos obtained by CNN reveal the conditions inside overcrowded hospitals and morgues. The footage includes harrowing images of a lifeless body hanging off a stretcher as coronavirus patients battle for their lives just a few feet away, with others showing bodies, stripped naked, piled on top of each other.
The videos are one of several signs pointing to an actual death toll far higher than official figures suggest. Russia says that as of 16th November, more than 33,000 people have died of Covid-19. But that number is disputed by critics who say the Kremlin is underreporting the numbers. “I think the real figure is [around] 130,000 people,” says Alexey Raksha, a former government statistician who has made his estimates based on official data on excess deaths.
Raksha tells CNN that he believes the Russian government is purposely hiding the true extent of the crisis, “Of course, they need to make people not afraid of the virus. It’s very helpful for providing [a] good picture.”
Chance was also granted rare access to a 1,300-bed state-of-the-art temporary coronavirus hospital in Moscow, set up in what was a world championship ice-skating stadium, called the ‘Ice Palace’. Chief Doctor Andrey Shkoda spoke about the facility, “The crisis is complicated but manageable. We have all the necessary diagnostic equipment here, ultrasound, anaesthesia and ventilators.”
Shkoda maintained that, “This is standard care”, across Moscow and beyond. But this picture of a country in full control of the pandemic, with a network of spacious medical facilities, seems increasingly at odds with the graphic footage emerging from hospitals, a deeper examination of the official statistics and the testimony of some medical workers.
Neither the Russian health ministry, the public health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, nor the Russian statistics agency Rosstat have responded to CNN’s requests for comment.