Russia's COVID deaths pass 700,000

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FILE PHOTO: Medical specialists treat COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Volgograd

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's COVID-19 deaths passed the 700,000 mark on Friday, Reuters calculations based on new data from the Rosstat state statistics service showed.

Rosstat said on Friday that 54,630 people died from COVID or related causes in December, after monthly coronavirus deaths hit a record high of nearly 90,000 in November and made Russia a country with the second highest number of deaths in the world after the United States.

This meant Russia's overall pandemic death toll reached 701,703, according to Reuters calculations based on Rosstat figures up to the end of December and data from the coronavirus task force for January.

The fast spreading Omicron variant has not yet significantly affected the Russian death toll. The number of daily infections started to surge in January.

Russia reported 98,040 new daily infections on Friday, a new record high for the eighth consecutive day, the coronavirus task force said.

Reuters calculations also showed Russia recorded more than 895,000 excess deaths since the beginning of the outbreak in April 2020 to the end of December, when compared to average mortality in 2015-2019.

Some epidemiologists say that calculating excess deaths is the best way to assess the true impact of a pandemic.

(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Frances Kerry)