Russia attributes its lower virus death figures to mass testing which has identified many cases with mild or no coronavirus symptoms.
The Health Ministry is now adjusting how it reports numbers to include all deaths believed to be related to the virus even if the direct cause of death was another condition or the patient tested negative.
Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, a liberal politician known for his outspoken comments, said Russia’s health system requires more funds and modernization in many regions.
“Medicine is significantly underfunded even according to the current norms and also it needs a serious overhaul,” Kudrin, who heads the Audit Chamber that examines government spending, said in an interview with the state-run TASS state news agency.
Starting July 13, Moscow will no longer require people to wear masks outdoors as the number of new coronavirus cases has dwindled in the Russian capital in recent weeks.
Moscow lifted restrictions including compulsory travel passes on June 8, a move welcomed by residents who rushed out to enjoy the streets and parks.
Many other regions lifted lockdown restrictions ahead of a July 1 national vote despite the pandemic.
Critics have cast doubt on Russia’s low official mortality rate and accused authorities of under-reporting to play down the scale of the crisis.
“We will carry out a check and show these figures,” he added.
Nevertheless the economist said Russia “is not doing a bad job with the pandemic,” crediting the role of the military, which has built emergency facilities.
Russia to Outsource Coronavirus Vaccine Testing to Mideast
Russia plans to conduct Phase III trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine in the Middle East as well as at home, the head of Russia’s sovereign fund told Reuters on Thursday.
Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) head Kirill Dmitriev said he expects Phase III trials involving several thousand people to begin after a 100-person Phase II trial ends Aug. 3. Two parallel Phase I trials involving 38 paid volunteers ended this week, with officials playing up the vaccine’s safety but not saying whether it was effective.
The Phase III trial will be conducted in Russia and in two unnamed Middle Eastern countries, Dmitriev told Reuters. He told a separate news conference that Russia was discussing opening a trial site and setting up a manufacturing partnership with Saudi Arabia.
Dmitriev forecast that Russia could sell up to 170 million doses to five countries with which it has manufacturing deals and reach herd immunity through nationwide vaccination by 2021.
“There’s a general sense that for so-called herd immunity in Russia you need to vaccinate between 40 million and 50 million people,” he was quoted as saying.
“So we believe we will be in good shape producing around 30 million doses domestically this year and then we can finalize vaccination next year,” he added.
The candidate vaccine’s developer previously expressed hopes that it would “enter civil circulation” in mid-August and companies would begin mass production by September.
The World Health Organization says at least two out of more than 100 potential vaccines under development are in final Phase III human trials.
The Kremlin has previously said the nation’s scientists are working on almost 50 different vaccine projects, while Russian scientists have said developing a vaccine is “a question of national prestige.”