Coronavirus in Russia

I know some people who are in Moscow right now. Their observations are that:

1. No one is wearing masks.

2. They are still congregating like normal.

3. Even though the signs at the subway are saying they should wear masks, no one is wearing masks.

4. But don’t take my word for this: here is a video of downtown Moscow on 4 June 2021:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjP4Vkf_V1w

5. Probably the reported number of cases for Russia (5,408,744 cases total) is low because most people don’t get tested.

Now this last point is always an issue. Part of the reason I focus on mortality rates is because I am guessing that the expected mortality rate should be around 0.5% or 1 death per 200 cases. In the case of the United States the mortality rate is 1.80%. This probably means that number of actual cases is up to four times higher than the number of reported cases. In the case of Russia, the mortality rate is 2.43%. This probably means that the number of actual cases is maybe five times higher than the number of reported cases.

But, the number of deaths in Russia is also grossly under-reported. This has been “known” for many months. The reported number of deaths is 131,671. On 1 May 2021, The Moscow Times reported that “excess deaths” estimates place the number of cases at 460,000. More to the point, 460,000 more people died in a twelve month period from April 2020 to March 2021 compared to the number that died during the same period the previous year. Certainly the vast majority of those excess deaths were due to Coronavirus. So 460,000 deaths versus 5,408,744 reported cases or a mortality rate of  8.5%. That would make the argument that the number infected is actually more like over 60% of the country (assuming the mortality rate is actually around 0.5%, less if it is higher). If there is 460,000 excess deaths from Coronavirus, then with a population of 146.2 million, we are looking at 3,146 deaths per million people. In contrast, the United States has 604,006 deaths in a population of 331.9 million or 1,820 deaths per million people. Just to compare to a more competent response, Canada has 26,188 deaths in a population of 38.3 million or 684 deaths per million people.

Copy of The Moscow Times article:

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2021/05/01/russias-pandemic-excess-death-toll-passes-460k-a73804

It is worth while looking at the chart of excess deaths in that article. I was not able to to add it to this blog post.

A lot of Russian have been vaccinated: 39.2 million doses administered out of a population of 146.2 million (including Crimea and Sevastopol) according to John’s Hopkins. Right now the number of cases in Russia is on the rise, about 20K cases a day as of last Friday compared to the United States at 7K cases last Friday and Canada at 606 cases last Friday.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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7 Comments

  1. “Certainly the vast majority of those excess deaths were due to Coronavirus. So 460,000 deaths versus 5,408,744 reported cases or a mortality rate of 8.5%. That would make the argument that the number infected is actually more like over 60% of the country…”

    The first part is correct. The second is debatable: An infection fatality rate of around 0.3-0.5% requires that severe cases get an ICU bed, still 1/3 to 1/2 die.

    In case of an overwhelmed hospital system, almost everybody without an ICU bed will die.

    There is no evidence that Russia has enough ICU beds and ventilators to provide a low (infection) mortality rate, therefore, the assumption that for each fatality there are 200 infected people is most likely wrong IMHO, Russia does not have a 60% infected share of people.

    The calculation is, if you understand the concept of a steady state, quite straight forward:

    A typical severe COVID case requires on average 14 days of ICU, with around 40000 proper ICU beds with ventilators Russia could sustain ~3000 admissions per day (many of them are not corona related but result of routine surgery), so let’s be generous and assume that 50% of the beds are reserved for corona cases, i.e. 1500 cases per day.

    With 450000 corona deaths per year you had between 1 million and 1.5 million severe cases (per year) or around 3500 per day. This number means that more than 50% of the severe cases did not get an ICU bed.

    • Valid points. If the mortality rate is 1%…then all the math changes. In the past you have argued for a mortality rate of around 0.3% (especially for Germany). I gather you are now arguing for a mortality rate of 1% or 2% for Russia.

      • OK, I misunderstand your comment: The 0.3% infection fatality rate always depended on sufficient numbers of ICU beds and ventilators. Therefore, it allows to calculate with known ICU capacity a steady state for a sustainable infection constant rate.

        The moment you run out of ICU beds you get a two or three times higher case fatility rate for the affected sick people. Yes, in Sweden or Russia the infection fatality rate is higher than 0.3%.

  2. ” I gather you are now arguing for a mortality rate of 1% or 2% for Russia.”

    No. That is a misunderstanding on your side: I assume that one of three people in the ICU die (infection fatality rate 0.3%), or worst case one of two die (infection fatality eate 0.5%). This means that 500 000 deaths require 1 million to 1.5 million cases in ICU. Here my argument did not change in years. 🙂

    You argue with the case fatility rat. I do not use it because it depends on testing strategy and there is no need if we assume to know fatalities.

    • I suspect we are talking past each other here. I am guessing that the “normal” mortality rate for an entire population is 0.5% (and it may be lower than that) based upon how many people are really infected (as opposed to how many are reported to be infected). The question is: is the medical support, age of the population, and overall health of the population of Russia is such that the actual mortality rate is significantly above 0.5%? I don’t know, but it might be.

      • “I suspect we are talking past each other here. I am guessing that the “normal” mortality rate for an entire population is 0.5% (and it may be lower than that) based upon how many people are really infected ”

        No, you make a simplification that may produce a nonsensical result. 🙂

        The 0.3% or 0.5% infection mortality rate of course depends on sufficient ICU capacity. It will increase to 1% if the daily demand for ICU is much higher than available ICU capacity.

        Therefore, the first test is if the daily deaths are consistent with an overwhelmed ICU capacity or not. If not, you can assume per death around 200-300 people infected four weeks ago. If the ICU capacity is overwhelmed, you should for each of the excess patients, who are from a practical POV are triaged, calculate only 100 infeceted people four weeks ago.

        If you then check the diagnosed cases four weeks ago, you get an impression of the dark number of not detected cases.

        With 400.000 covid deaths in Russia I come to around 60 million infected Russians (<50%) of population, for herd immunity against the delta variant you need 80%-85% of the population infected/vaccinated.

        Therefore, Russia is still in the exponential regime.

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