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Kremlin covering up the true number of Russia’s COVID19 infections. One theory why.

Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of Russia's Alliance of Doctors trade union, voiced the accusation in a video published on Thursday.

PortandTerminal.com, March 21, 2020

“And as usual, we’re facing the lie of the authorities,” says Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of Russia’s Alliance of Doctors. But why would Russia cover up the number of COVID19 cases it has? All fingers point to Putin.

LONDON – Up until now, it’s been a mystery how Russia has managed to maintain such a low number of COVID19 infections. But according to a growing number of media reports though there’s no mystery at all. Russia has been covering up the true number of cases it’s dealing with.

Officially, Russia has just 253 officially declared cases of COVID19 and just 1 death. Compare that to Russia’s neighbor Estonia, a country with just 1.3 million people, which has 306 cases.

Russia’s reported 253 cases is a remarkably low number for a country with a population of 146 million people, a shared border with China and a terrible track record in keeping a lid on infections diseases.

Case in point. Unlike most countries, Russia’s HIV epidemic is still growing, with the rate of new infections rising by between 10 and 15% each year. It is estimated that over 250 people become infected with HIV every day in Russia.  Even tuberculosis is a problem in Russia. So how has Russia possibly managed to keep a lid on COVID19?

It turns out that they haven’t. They’ve just called their COVID19 cases something else.

Cover up

Female, blond doctor photographed against a green background.
Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of Russia’s Alliance of Doctors trade union. 
Alliance of Doctors/YouTube

Now there are doctors in Russia who are saying that the government is covering up the true number of coronavirus cases in the country and forcing medical staff to treat infectious patients without protective equipment.

Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of Russia’s Alliance of Doctors trade union, voiced the accusation in a video published on Thursday.

She said Russian authorities were referring to coronavirus cases as ordinary pneumonia, implying that they’re distinct from the coronavirus pandemic.

She called on Russian doctors to go public with information about the “true” state of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

“While the whole world is facing an outbreak of a new coronavirus, Russia is facing an outbreak of community-acquired pneumonia,” Vasilyeva said. “And as usual, we’re facing the lie of the authorities.”

The number of cases of pneumonia, which can be caused by coronavirus, increased by 37 percent in Moscow year-on-year in January, according to Rosstat, Russia’s statistics agency.

The data showed that the Russian capital, which has 98 confirmed cases of coronavirus, recorded 6,921 pneumonia cases in January, up from 5,058 the previous year. Nationwide pneumonia cases also spiked by over 3 percent year-on-year.

Based upon these numbers, Moscow alone may have 2,000 or so cases of COVID19. How many cases are there in all of Russia? Thousands more and soon to be tens-of-thousands is a good starting point.

An aerial view shows a construction site for a new infectious disease hospital, as an additional measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, on the outskirts of Moscow, March 18, 2020. Moscow News Agency/via Reuters

On Thursday, Moscow authorities reported Russia’s first coronavirus-related death, a 79-year old woman, but later said she’d died of a blood clot. The government did not include her death in its daily coronavirus bulletin.

Why cover up the true number of cases?

Russian President Vladimir Putin seated in front of Russian flags
Russian President Vladimir Putin leads a cabinet meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 17, 2020.

One theory for the reason behind the cover-up of COVID19 cases is that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the true scale of the infections to be kept secret until after April 22nd.

Putin has set April 22 for a nationwide referendum on constitutional amendments that would allow him to remain in power until at least 2036.  Many believe that Putin has ordered the true magnitude of the COVID19 infections in Russia to be kept secret to avoid any negative press coverage that may weaken his chances to push through the constitutional amendments.

Putin, who has ruled Russia either as president or prime minister since 1999, is desperate to remain in power and avoid any possible prosecution that may come were he to be replaced.

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