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Covid-19: For Western mainstream media, Russia fails even when it succeeds

Anna Belkina
Anna Belkina
Anna Belkina is RT’s deputy editor in chief and head of communications, marketing and strategic development.
Anna Belkina is RT’s deputy editor in chief and head of communications, marketing and strategic development.
Covid-19: For Western mainstream media, Russia fails even when it succeeds
The Russian Foreign Ministry has demanded that two of the most prominent foreign newspapers, the New York Times and the Financial Times, retract their stories stating that Russia is concealing the real Covid-19 death toll.

Even if the NYT and FT were correct in their claims, Russia would still be doing far better than the vast majority of large industrialized nations, including the US and UK.

As of the morning of May 14, Russia’s Covid-19 death toll stands at 2,212 out of 242,271 recorded cases, or 0.9 percent. This number is not disputed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has continuously monitored the situation in the country. To compare, the death rate for the novel coronavirus is six percent in the US, seven percent in Canada, 14 percent in the UK, and 10 percent or more in Italy, Spain, France and Sweden. You know, the so-called civilized countries. 

There is not a hint of evidence that the Russian government has covered up the coronavirus toll. Yet, foreign media are skeptical of Russia’s numbers. Perhaps because in their worldview, Russia is not allowed to be anything but a grim and miserable failure at everything. Any fact contradicting this narrative is Kremlin propaganda. 

RT

To wit, the UK-based, Japanese-owned Financial Times has analyzed the recent all-cause mortality data coming out of Moscow and Saint Petersburg vis-a-vis the cities’ historical averages. It has concluded that Russia’s actual Covid-19 death toll is around 70 percent higher than the officially reported figures. 

Meanwhile, the New York Times – headquartered in the city where nurses had to wear garbage bags for the lack of protective equipment, and where the local government began prospecting parks as possible burial grounds due to the staggering Covid-19 body count of nearly 15,000 – claimed that Russia’s real death toll could be “possibly almost three times higher than the official death toll.” 

Here’s what the Times doesn’t tell you: Even if their worst case scenario for Russia were true, the country’s Covid-19 death rate would still be one of the lowest among large industrialized nations. Even having been tripled by the Times’ accounting, the resulting 2.7 percent still would be an impressive healthcare result compared to six percent in the US. It  would still be below Japan’s 4.1 percent and barely above the world’s main coronavirus ‘success story’, South Korea, currently at 2.3 percent. Moscow, a city with 50 percent more residents than NYC, would still have a body count five times lower even if all the extra deaths the Times is writing about were attributed Covid-19. 

NB: While there are other large nations with smaller fatality numbers, such as India and Brazil, they are testing their populations at levels lower by a factor of tens, and suffer from weaker healthcare infrastructure overall. Their official recorded Covid-19 deaths therefore are likely not providing an accurate portrayal of the situation on the ground, a concern echoed by the WHO. Russia currently tests at the rate of ~40,000 per 1 million people, or well ahead of the US, UK, Canada, France, Sweden, and other OECD countries, and on par with Germany, Norway, and Switzerland, Europe’s ‘model nations’ in combating the coronavirus pandemic. 

The New York Times is not interested in exploring the reasons for Russia’s promising performance, be they grounded in the country’s demographics or familial habitation traditions, legacy healthcare system or innovative scientific approaches, historical experiences with respiratory illnesses or modern infrastructure management. 

It buries the lede, brushing aside its own note that “underreporting of fatalities has been observed in many other countries, where subsequent data reveal large upticks in deaths compared to the same period in previous years,” and charts showing Spain and England as countries that display a change in historical mortality trend lines nearly identical to Russia’s.

RT

New York’s own numbers, according to the US Centers for Disease Control “may be thousands of fatalities worse than the tally kept by the city and state.” Moscow’s Department of Health, by the way, has already addressed the questions about the city’s cause-of-death accounting. 

Instead, the Times pivots to its favorite bête noire – malevolent Russian propaganda. Their purported 300-percent greater coronavirus death toll in Russia “contrasts sharply with the line peddled by the Kremlin.” The paper does not clarify whether the same historical disparities in Spain and the UK contrast sharply with the line peddled by Madrid or the line peddled by 10 Downing Street. Official information from the naughty countries is always ‘peddled lines’; everyone else gets to plead best intentions and innocent ignorance in perpetuity. 

The ‘Kremlin line’ on the coronavirus toll in Russia is supported by international monitoring and discrepancies are accounted for by international practices. The Kremlin’s supposedly concealed ‘massive failure’ would still be kicking the a** of most ‘First World’ nations when it comes to mitigating Covid-19 fatalities. But it would kill the mainstream press to admit as much.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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