Moscow Hospital
© Sputnik / Alexey Maishev
The doctor works with the patient in the ward of the hospital for patients with coronavirus infection COVID-19 on the basis of the City Clinical Hospital No. 67 in Moscow.
Mortality rates in over half of Russian regions have returned to pre-pandemic lows, the country's top health official has said, as authorities in rural Buryatia scramble to deploy additional beds to meet a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Speaking to TASS in an interview published on Monday, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko announced that the majority of regions in the country were seeing the rate of deaths falling to the level they were at before the start of the coronavirus crisis last year. To boot, these levels, he said, had been "the lowest in history. Covid, of course, radically changed the situation."

Murashko credited two developments responsible for the dip in deaths, the first being effective "measures for the mass prevention of coronavirus infection." In addition, he said, the "resumption of medical examinations" that were disrupted by the pandemic had helped head off mortality from diseases unrelated to Covid-19.

However, in a sign that the fight against the virus is unlikely to be over just yet, the Minister of Health of Buryatia, a Far-Eastern Russian republic on the border with Mongolia, warned that the local epidemiological situation was worsening. Evgenia Ludupova wrote on Instagram to urge residents "to observe safety measures." She added that "in particular, in the last week we have seen an increase in the incidence of acute respiratory viral infections and new coronavirus infections."

Officials in the region, around 6,000 kilometers east of Moscow, are now working to deploy additional beds to several local hospitals to cope with the increase in cases, with 90% of hospital spaces currently occupied. Planned hospitalizations have been suspended and one hospital has been closed to new patients to ensure it can continue to care for those who have already been admitted.

Other regions, however, have closed down specialist Covid units that were set up to deal with the peak of infections, and cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg have relaxed almost all their restrictions.

Russia's official Covid-19 case tally has plateaued at somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000 each day since the end of March, with the number of positive tests recorded falling from a high of more than 28,000 in a single day in December. Since the start of the pandemic, more than five million people have been diagnosed with the virus. However, many more are estimated to have antibodies.