Bloomberg has yet again had to correct the title of an article, after rolling out a report about why Covid-19 hasn’t “killed more Russians.” Moscow has argued that Western media distort Russia’s fight against the disease. 

US-based Bloomberg News had published the story, originally titled “Experts Want to Know Why Coronavirus Hasn’t Killed More Russians,” on Wednesday. The news piece was ostensibly about how Russia’s relatively low death toll from Covid-19 “puzzles health experts,” especially since the nation has the second-highest number of officially-recorded cases of the disease, trailing only behind the US.

The headline prompted a backlash online, with people slamming it as tasteless and “deplorable.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry didn’t pull punches on the publication with a rather click-baity headline either, branding it “horrendous.” It also said the article appeared to have been in line with the “disinformation campaign” waged against Moscow’s efforts to fight the novel coronavirus.

Amid the outrage, Bloomberg initially just tweaked the headline slightly, changing it to “Experts question why coronavirus hasn’t killed more Russians.” But then it was changed again on Saturday, this time with a more radical amendment: “Experts Question Russian Data on Covid-19 Death Toll.” The outlet explained that the headline was corrected to show that “experts are questioning the methodology of Russia’s death statistics.”

The story itself cited Jeremy Rossman, a virology expert from Britain’s University of Kent, who told Bloomberg that Russia’s death rate is “dramatically low on the world stage,” and it is “implying that the risk of death from Covid-19 is lower than it in fact is.”

The report also included a quote by Melita Vujnovic, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative to Russia. She said that Russian officials may at some point do a “recalculation” of death statistics, but also explained that she does not believe that the authorities are deliberately downplaying the death toll.

Bloomberg’s ill-titled report came out days after similar stories by the New York Times (NYT) and Financial Times (FT), which alleged that Russia has significantly more deaths from Covid-19 than had officially been reported.

On Friday, FT published a letter by Russia’s Ambassador to the UK, Andrey Kelin, titled “Russia’s crisis response deserves fairer coverage.” The diplomat argued that the paper’s previous reporting had painted a “distorted picture” of the situation with Covid-19 in the country. FT’s take on Russia was riddled with “inaccurate statements coupled with an unacceptable and unprofessional one-sided narrative,” he wrote.

Kelin pointed out that Moscow has increasingly ramped up mass testing for Covid-19, which allowed for “early detection and timely treatment of the disease.” He also cited the health ministry’s policy of recording mortality statistics, when “even in Covid-positive patients, the primary cause of death is registered, and that may be another disease.”

As of Sunday afternoon, Russia has had more than 281,750 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 2,631 deaths.

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