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Russia's COVID-linked death toll increases after statistical change

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By Euronews with AP
In this June 3, 2020 photo, medical workers carry a patient at infectious diseases hospital where patients with coronavirus are treated in St.Petersburg, Russia.
In this June 3, 2020 photo, medical workers carry a patient at infectious diseases hospital where patients with coronavirus are treated in St.Petersburg, Russia.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky
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The number of people in Russia reported to have died with COVID-19 increased on Monday after the country's statistics agency updated its tally.

Figures released by Rosstat on Monday showed that 162,429 people died with the disease in 2020 — much higher than the 77,068 deaths reported to date.

The state's statistics agency added to its death toll cases where the virus wasn't the main cause of death and where it was suspected but not confirmed.

The government's coronavirus task force only includes deaths where COVID-19 was the main cause. Officials also said the task force uses data from medical facilities while Rosstat takes its numbers from civil registry offices, where registering a death is finalised.

The last month of the year, when new daily COVID-19 infections often soared to more than 27,000, saw 44,435 deaths — the highest number of deaths in the country since April, according to Rosstat.

Overall, the number of deaths rose 18 per cent year on year to 323,800 with about a third all excess deaths caused by "clearly diagnosed" COVID-19, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said.

Rosstat started releasing detailed monthly updates on virus-linked deaths in June, after the task force’s relatively low death count - which is reflected in the numbers released by the World Health Organization - raised eyebrows in the West as Russia’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases became one of the world’s largest.

Critics and Western media alleged back then that Russian authorities might have been falsifying the numbers for political purposes to downplay the scale of the outbreak, accusations that officials vehemently denied. The Kremlin credited the government's response measures for Russia’s low COVID-19 mortality, and experts cited the way Russia counts virus deaths as one of the reasons behind the relatively low reported number of virus deaths.

Russia has reported more than 3.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases, the fifth-highest tally in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.