As officials in the Russian capital are increasing Covid-19 testing in a bid to pinpoint the number of infected people, CNN runs an emotive headline claiming that more than just the city has been badly hit by the pandemic.
“Coronavirus has devastated Moscow. Now it’s spreading across Russia’s 11 time zones to ill-funded regions,” says the strongly worded title of the piece by the network’s Moscow bureau chief, Nathan Hodge.
However, the actual copy, albeit not offering much praise for the Russian authorities, offers a more sober view of the situation. Still, it has to attract readers somehow. The piece mentions Russia now firmly holding the second place when it comes to the total global number of Covid-19 cases, with more than 280,000 infected. Yet, while the figures are ahead of Britain’s, they’re far behind the US’s. And Moscow accounts for more than half of all the country’s infections and fatalities – an official statistic that is also cited in the CNN article.
Two weeks ago, the megalopolis saw a sharp increase in daily cases from around 3,500 to over 5,000. The steep rise has been linked by the authorities to the rolling out of broader testing for the deadly disease. The latest figures show that the capital, which has recorded more than 142,000 infections in total, has carried out over a million tests so far, with some 6.9 million tests having been conducted nationwide. Acknowledging that the real number of infected cases may nonetheless be much higher, Moscow has also recently started a screening program for antibodies, to help determine whether those who have beaten the virus may be protected from re-infection.
CNN’s attention-grabbing headline is nothing if not far-fetched. While new cases do indeed keep emerging every day across Russia, confirmation of the virus having reached each of the country’s 85 federal subjects, or districts, is already a month old.
To spice up the story, the article also refers to Russia’s coronavirus deaths as “a political football,” and refers to allegations that hospitals have been underreporting the figures. Granted, a later correction of the figures of fatalities – as was made in China – cannot be ruled out, and this is likely already being considered. However, Health Minister Tatyana Golikova has said that corrupt health professionals might actually have been motivated to overreport so as to benefit from a government bonus.
“We have a pretty high pay bonus for those treating [Covid-19],” she said. “Even if you take [only] this economic factor, it appears any hospital would be interested in reporting more Covid-19 cases.”
That said, stories that a number of countries may have under-reported their coronavirus numbers have made the news with predictable regularity recently – like the one from April that alleged that UK deaths from the disease could be 40 percent higher than official statistics record. Or the one that suggested that the real Los Angeles infection rate might be dozens of times greater than revealed.
In terms of mortality, Brooklyn, in New York City, has the misfortune to have the largest death toll in the US, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, with 4,813 Covid-19 deaths to date. New York accounts for over a quarter of the total number of coronavirus deaths in the US, which currently stands at 89,207 at the time of writing.
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