Since the beginning of March 2020, the same idea has been spreading across social networks: Russia is full of Covid-19 patients, the authorities simply underestimate medical statistics "by many orders of magnitude." Patients with influenza and acute respiratory viral infections, supporters of this point of view, believe, in fact, suffer from coronavirus. Deaths from him will also be "formalized" under the flu and common pneumonia. Moreover, they are trying to explain the almost complete victory over the epidemic in China by similar falsifications. The version, we must agree, is colorful, and excites the imagination. Let's check if it is compatible with reality.
The idea “while the authorities hide” is always attractive to people. There will always be millions who are ready to believe in anything if this “anything” matches their intuitive expectations. And real life often diverges from these expectations, which leads to cognitive dissonance. You can try to understand why you were wrong in your expectations, but not all people like to reconsider their views and look for their mistakes. It is psychologically more comfortable to find them with others.
The situation with the coronavirus looks like an epidemic of enormous proportions: only four times less deaths from it in the world have already died from seasonal flu in the United States in the same time. It is noticeable that China has made significant efforts to curb the epidemic. At the same time, many countries with developed medicine - from South Korea to Italy - are experiencing huge problems with this very curb.
The level of medicine in Russia is traditionally assessed by fellow citizens as low or very low, and outside our country - as high. This feature of mentality cannot be eliminated by any means. It is useless to recall that in China, for example, infant mortality is much higher than in Russia, and the like: this side of the "national character" must simply be taken into account.
And she whispers to us: if there are 15 thousand sick people in Italy (every four thousand), then in Russia there cannot be less of them. In addition, Italy does not have a common border with China, and we have a long one. So, logically, there should be a lot of sick people around, and officially there are only 45 people. Why is that? Social networks massively choose two options: either the country does not have tests for detecting coronavirus, or they are, but the authorities, in order not to create panic, do not use them, and the sick are "ordered" to be classified as influenza or ARVI victims.
At this point, in most cases, the thought ends: in the world of conspiracy theories, the truth is unknowable, because the authorities can do everything (of course, only as long as it concerns evil deeds - useful ones cannot be expected from them): silence every doctor, show any reality on TV, regardless from what is actually happening, and so on.
Interestingly, such ideas circulate not only in social networks, but also reach the press. The same Meduza published the text “The coronavirus is raging all over the world, and everyone is healthy in Russia. Is this some incredible luck or are there other explanations? " Moreover, the publication even managed to find an infectious disease doctor Valentin Kovalev from the Moscow clinic "Rassvet" (though a pediatrician), who, with his authority, confirmed the version that, in fact, we have a lot of patients with coronavirus:
“I think that the coronavirus infection came to us a long time ago from China - and many have already had it.But we do not know about these cases, because in most cases the infection flows like a common ARVI and the person himself recovers. In our country, no one routinely examines those who have colds at home."
We will try to go a little further. Are there really no tests for coronavirus in the country? And is it possible to pass off a massive epidemic of this disease for influenza, SARS and the like?
Test on test and test drives
The idea that there are no coronavirus tests in Russia is based on some ignorance of the facts. In fact, such tests are produced in rather large quantities by the Novosibirsk Scientific Center "Vector". He created them on the basis of well-developed PCR testing technologies in an extremely short time - using data on the genome of the virus obtained from China. You shouldn't be too surprised at such efficiency.
First, to create a test based on the method worked out for other diseases, it does not take much time. Secondly, "Vector" back in Soviet times was originally created as a center for testing the means of rapid diagnostics and the fight against biological weapons of a potential enemy.
He was preparing to fight against 37 of the most effective combat pathogens, presumably, according to the KGB and the GRU, which interested the Western military as an offensive weapon. According to the Russian Deputy Defense Minister, in order to create such a defense, intelligence stole "real samples of biological ammunition." During biological warfare (we do not say "bacteriological", since "Vector" initially worked with viruses), you need to react quickly, because there is not much time for buildup.
To understand how skilled this organization is in the fight against viruses, we note that it has one of the most complete collections of viruses in the world, including active smallpox samples (there are only two such places in the world). And she is engaged not only in tests: by June of this year, they plan to create and test a vaccine against Covid-19.
Technically, Russia can produce at least 100,000 of these tests per week - quite a sufficient figure even by Chinese standards. They began to distribute them to the regions back in January. There is no shortage of tests in the country to such an extent that as of March 12, 50 thousand of them were donated to Iran. The same deliveries went to nine more countries. It was the "vector" test systems that detected the coronavirus in Armenia and Belarus: these countries themselves do not have their own funds of this kind.
Recall: general testing of the population to combat coronavirus is not needed, it was not done even in China. Only those who show symptoms or have entered a risk group due to close contact with a person who has a confirmed disease are diagnosed. That is why even tens of thousands of tests are quite significant for the fight against the disease.
Conclusion: there is no shortage of tests in Russia.
“But we do not know about these cases, because in most cases the infection flows like a common ARVI and the person gets better himself”?
What about the opinion of infectious disease specialist Valentin Kovalev, quoted by Meduza, with his “I think that coronavirus infection came to us from China for a long time - and many have already had it?” He believes that it is difficult to identify Covid-19, because in most cases the infection is easy, and with the symptoms of a common SARS, few people will want to trudge to the hospital to find out if they have a coronavirus.
We must say right away: there is no guarantee that Meduza accurately conveyed his words. The situation "The scientist raped the journalist" is too common to ignore the possible citation error. But even if the doctor really said this, he, to put it mildly, is not quite right. Yes, in most cases, the new coronavirus is easy to carry. But in every fifth registered case, it has a severe course - with severe pneumonia and a noticeable risk of death.
We emphasize in particular: in every fifth registered case.In an interview with another publication, the same Valentin Kovalev argued: "Given that many people carry the infection asymptomatically, the percentage of complications and mortality is not higher than the usual seasonal flu."
This is a rather difficult point of view, but it cannot be ruled out that it is right. Indeed, even in Wuhan, everyone without exception was not tested, and it is possible that in reality there were more cases in China. And then the death rate from coronavirus is not 3-4%, but much less, really closer to the flu.
But even in this case, we can establish whether there are thousands and tens of thousands of patients with coronavirus hiding in Russia or not. For example, in Moscow and the region there is at least an "Italian" concentration of patients: one in four thousand. Then there are five thousand of them, and a thousand - with severe pneumonia.
Many of them will need oxygen or a ventilator. Approximately every thirtieth patient dies, which means that an additional one and a half hundred people should die from pneumonia in a couple of weeks. We are talking about 7-10 additional deaths from pneumonia per day. If you remember that the uncontrolled virus is spreading rapidly, the figure will be even higher.
In all of Russia, according to Rosstat, an average of 52 people die from pneumonia per day. We hire just the townspeople, because outside the cities the probability of death from it is lower, and the coronavirus is likely to arrive there much later than in the cities, and for the same reason as the most common pneumonia. Our urban population is 110 million, that is, on average, one person in two million perishes from pneumonia in cities per day. Consequently, the typical "background" of such deaths in Moscow and the region is about 7-10 people per day. Even in the cold season, this figure is rarely more than ten.
Let us compare the data: in the presence of a coronavirus epidemic in Moscow at the "Italian" level, 7-10 people should die from pneumonia caused by a new virus per day, from ordinary pneumonia - about the same. Total: if the authorities really "hide", then the number of victims of pneumonia should double now.
Is this happening? Doubtful. We live in an era of social networks, extremely prone to spreading panic rumors, as well as mass registration of all facts of being in selfies - which are done even from a funeral, not like from a hospital. Many hundreds of additional cases of pneumonia, plus a doubling of the death rate from them, is a fact that would simply be impossible to ignore. The entire Instagram would be packed with relevant pictures.
Diamond Princess Pyramid
There is another important indicator of whether the authorities are “hiding” or not. We would call it the "Diamond Princess" factor - after the cruise ship on board which one in five people fell ill. This factor is simple: while there is no reliable diagnosis and isolation of patients with coronavirus, the number of patients with coronavirus is not just growing, but growing very quickly.
People cannot just take it and quietly get sick in their apartment, as it happens with the flu. As noted by the State Committee on Health of the People's Republic of China, 83% of all cases of infection occur in family members of the infected. That is, those who are being treated in their apartment are a powerful source of the spread of the infection. You can stop him only by diagnosing such a person and placing him in a hospital - well, or by blocking his entire family in the house. Both that, and another without diagnosing the disease is simply impossible.
This is exactly what they did in China, and as a result, there are no new cases of Covid-19 there. The epidemic is at least suspended. Recall: the number of cases did not even reach one ten thousandth of the population of the PRC, And at the Diamond Princess, the medical staff did not, so there the number of cases reached one-fifth of all people at risk.
Where an epidemic is not detected, and its carriers - including those who are not at risk of dying from pneumonia - are not isolated from the rest of the population in the most severe way, a powerful outbreak of a new coronavirus is inevitable.If in Russia there really were thousands of patients who lay at home, like ordinary victims of the flu, they would infect their relatives (we do not wear a regular flu mask), and those, going out into the street and going to work, would infect many people there. …
Had there been 20 thousand hiding cases in Moscow many times described in social networks, their number, like on the Diamond Princess, would have grown tenfold in three weeks. It has reached hundreds of thousands, or even a million.
That is, the frequency of pneumonia deaths would only double at first, and in a matter of weeks increased, first ten, and then a hundred times higher than the norm. It would have reached a thousand people a day - despite the fact that on average in Moscow, only 330-340 people die a day. All hospitals and morgues would be packed. Where is all this? But without this, the hypothesis "we already have a lot of illnesses" objectively does not work.
Italian example: why in some countries there are a lot of cases, but in others - few
To understand why there are actually fewer cases of the disease in Russia, one can turn to the example of Italy. There are already 15 thousand cases. More than one case per four thousand population is even higher than in the PRC outside Hubei province, the epicenter of the epidemic. There are a thousand people who have died from a new disease alone. There is nothing of the kind in other EU countries so far - despite the fact that in France there are no fewer Chinese tourists capable of infecting an infection than in Italy.
It's worth starting with objective factors. Italians themselves today reproduce poorly: their median age (not to be confused with the average) is 47.3 years, that is, half of the population is older than this mark, and half is younger. Tellingly, the median age of patients with coronavirus, according to Chinese statistics, is the same 47 years. That is, Italians are the ideal environment for a new infection. Italy has the oldest population in Europe - and not only in it: the median age in the United States is 38.3 years. 23% of Italians are over 65.
In the elderly, resistance to Covid-19 is minimal, and mortality from it is maximal. They are more likely to have diabetes or cancer - diseases in which immunity, in principle, is noticeably weaker than that of a healthy person. They get sick more, cough more, that is, they throw more droplets with virus capsids into their environment. In addition, it is easier for the virus to switch to a new victim here: after all, it is older than in the rest of the world.
In Russia, as in the United States, the median age is close to 38 years. This means that the spread of the disease (and mortality from it) here, in principle, cannot proceed as in Italy: the local population, on average, is less susceptible to a new infection.
Here it is appropriate to recall another country that stands out sharply against the background of its neighbors in terms of the number of patients with coronavirus. This is Iran with a median age of the population of 30 years. It would seem that his ties with China, the epicenter of the epidemic, are no more (if not less) close than those of neighboring Pakistan. Nevertheless, there are many times less coronavirus patients in Pakistan than in Iran, both in absolute numbers and per capita. Why? The most likely answer is simple: The median age of Pakistanis is under 24. It is difficult for the virus to infect new victims because there are too few old enough people around.
Of course, Iran ranked second in the world in terms of the number of cases, not only because its population is older than its neighbors. It also affected the fact that at the beginning of the outbreak there were no test systems in the country, and the local authorities at first categorically did not want to introduce quarantine, having agreed that this is an "old-fashioned practice."
It is, of course, so, the word and practice appeared in Italy in the XIV century, but the fact is that not all medieval practices are actually bad (remember at least about universities). In Russia, however, there is no such disrespect for medieval practices as in Iran, including quarantine. And the country has a lot of its own tests, so the Iranian scenario is unlikely here.
South Korea ranks third in the world in terms of the number of cases, eight thousand infected. The median age there is about 42 years.The fourth is Spain, the median age is almost 43 years, the fifth is France, more than 41 years, the sixth is Germany, 47 years old, almost like in Italy. However, the health care of the Germans is organized, like almost everything, much better than that of the Italians (there are two and a half times more hospital beds). Conclusion: Russia should not have shown the rate of spread of the epidemic at the level of European countries, because so far its population is not so old.
Logically, the speed of the spread of the epidemic in our country should be compared with the United States - fortunately, our country has the same median age. Moreover, here the coronavirus should spread even more slowly, since the passenger traffic between the States and the PRC is much higher than between Russia and the PRC.
The favorite argument of conspiracy theorists that we and China have a long land border is shown only by their poor acquaintance with statistics: in our time, the bulk of people between large countries travel by plane, which is why the flow of people from China to the United States is always much higher than from China in Russia. Let's check this idea: in the States there are 1742 cases, about one in 200 thousand of the population. We have 45 of them - about one in three million. The difference is about one in fifteen: high, but it will almost certainly decrease over time. In the States, the process simply started earlier, since the "zero patient" arrived there earlier.
Total: the rate of spread of coronavirus in Russia is absolutely normal, given the median age of its inhabitants, the presence of "Vector", a relic of the past era of preparation for biological warfare, which quickly provided the country with tests, as well as a greater inclination of the leadership to medieval quarantine practices than in Iran. interruption of transport links with certain countries of the surrounding world.
Strange, the reader will say. The theses about the lower median age in Russia, the ominous traditions of "Vector" and the love of domestic officials "to drag and not let go" are quite obvious and easy to understand. Why don't we see them in the press, but instead read profound hypotheses about 20 thousand hidden coronavirus infections in Moscow alone?
The answer to this question lies in the field of mass psychology. The Russian mentality is very different from the mentality of other peoples of the world. An unusually strong fixation on the image of a "fool" in folklore - in the place where heroes are seen in the folklore of other countries - appeared in our country for a reason. Here they like to feel like victims of insurmountable circumstances, for example, the authorities. This allows you to justify almost any mistakes you make to the immortals, "we are not like that, but life is like that."
Such a semi-active life position saves you from uncomfortable questions to yourself, say, about personal responsibility for what is happening. The idea “the authorities are hiding, but the epidemic has long come to us from China” allows us not to ask ourselves: why did the Russians, who brought the epidemic to Moscow, go to Italy after it became known that there was an outbreak of coronavirus?