MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin on Thursday praised Moscow’s authorities after the city reported its lowest daily increase in coronavirus infections since April 23, but some critics raised questions over some of Russia’s reported data.
Officials say Russia’s outbreak is stabilising and President Vladimir Putin this week rescheduled Moscow’s postponed May 9 Victory Day military parade for June 24. Moscow will begin easing its lockdown on Monday. Many regions have already begun.
The wave of infections, the fallout from Russia’s shutdown and low world oil prices have made the coronavirus one of the biggest challenges to Putin in his more than two decades in power.
Authorities reported 8,371 new infections on Thursday, pushing the nationwide tally to 379,051, the world’s third highest after the United States and Brazil. The death toll rose to 4,142 after 174 people died overnight.
The focus of the outbreak has been shifting to Russia’s provinces from Moscow. The capital has been the worst-hit city so far but the number of new cases there fell to 2,054 on Thursday from a peak of 6,703 on May 7.
Russia’s death toll is much lower than many other countries with similar case totals, something that has been questioned by critics and sparked debate. Authorities defend the figures and say they are more accurate than those of other countries.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday recommended that people who test positive for the virus but who are asymptomatic should not be counted in the national case tally. However, opponents of the Kremlin criticised this approach.
“Why shouldn’t they be included? So as not to spoil Putin’s mood? The statistics should be objective and accurate,” Lyubov Sobol, a vocal Putin critic, wrote on Twitter.
Leonid Volkov, an ally of Sobol, said some of the virus data being reported by Russia’s regions looked statistically dubious. He pointed to the region of North Ossetia, which has reported one-day case rises of between 52 and 78 for nearly three weeks.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Alexander Marrow Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Frances Kerry)