Fact Check-COVID-19 does exist and autopsies in Russia did not show otherwise

Autopsies of COVID-19 victims in Russia have shown COVID-19 to be the cause of death in thousands of instances. This is contrary to posts on social media claiming these autopsies revealed COVID-19 does not exist and people are instead suffering from treatable blood clots caused by bacteria. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, not a bacterium, and although it can trigger blood clots, this is not the only effect of the disease.

“Russia is the first country in the world to dissect Covid-19 corpses (going against WHO’s criminal orders of no autopsy’s (sic) allowed for covid deaths), and after a thorough investigation, it was determined that Covid-does NOT exist AS A VIRUS,” says the title of an article hosted on several sites (here , here) shared on social media here , here and here .

The article and post captions say, “it cannot be assumed that it is a virus, but rather bacteria that cause death and lead to the formation of blood clots in the veins and nerves, from which the patient dies,” adding that “bacteria exposed to 5G rays” are to blame. They allege that “ventilators and intensive care units were never used” in Russia and that this disease can be “cured” by “antibiotic tablets, anti-inflammatory and taking anticoagulants (aspirin)”.

A very similar claim circulated in May 2020 in relation to Italy. Reuters debunked this claim, here .


The WHO does not prohibit autopsies for COVID-19 victims: in September 2020 they released guidance on safety procedures for autopsies of dead people infected with COVID-19, visible here .

Russia relies on a post-mortem analysis to decide whether the death of an infected person was caused by COVID-19 (here). Tatyana Golikova, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, said in December 2020 ( that all COVID-19 deaths, barring religious exceptions, are subject to this post-mortem analysis: “We have autopsies in 100% of cases throughout the country, with some exceptions for religious reasons. In the case of infectious diseases – and coronavirus is seen as an especially infectious disease – we have autopsies in 100% of cases.”

Russia is not the only country to have carried out autopsies on COVID-19 victims (here). Such post-mortem studies have been carried out in countries including the United States (here), Germany (here), Italy (here) and the United Kingdom (here).


Deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 in Russia following post-mortem analysis. The Russian Ministry of Health says that as of April 14, 2021 there have been 104,000 COVID-19 deaths ( Figures from Russia’s Federal Service for State Statistics (Rosstat) seen here on the Reuters COVID-19 tracker show that by this date there had been 243,084 coronavirus-related deaths recorded in Russia since the pandemic began. The authorities have said in the past that Rosstat’s figures are more complete, including data from autopsy reports not available for the daily tally (here).

Reuters reported in May 2020 that thousands of Russians infected with the novel coronavirus have had their deaths put down to other causes, such as heart attack (here). “Simply put, no one ever dies ‘from’ a virus. People die from complications resulting from a virus,” Alexey Erlikh, head of the intensive cardiac care unit at Moscow’s Hospital 29, which has been designated to treat coronavirus, said.

“But they also die from the complications of a chronic illness that are caused by the virus. Some people believe that such deaths shouldn’t be counted in the coronavirus death toll. I believe they should,” Erlikh said (here).


The posts claim that Russia found out that COVID-19 is not a virus but is caused by bacteria. However, the Russian Ministry of Health website characterizes COVID-19 as a “virus”, saying the disease is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus .

The World Health Organization has previously debunked the myth that COVID-19 is caused by bacteria not a virus (here).

Reuters has previously debunked claims that COVID-19 is caused by bacteria and that it is just thrombosis (blood clots) here .

Researchers have noted that one of the many life-threatening effects of COVID-19 is inflammation and abnormal blood clots, which can cause multiple health complications from heart attack to organ damage to stroke, as the U.S. government National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Johns Hopkins Medicine explain here and here and here .

However, blood clots are just one of many effects that COVID-19 can have, as such COVID-19 is not synonymous with thrombosis (here , here).


The posts say that what people are experiencing is bacteria exposed to 5G rays, where the radiation causes inflammation and hypoxia.

Reuters has previously debunked false allegations that 5G is making people sick instead of COVID-19 (here , here , here) and claims that COVID-19 is caused by radiation poisoning (here , here).

The World Health Organization says no research has linked exposure to wireless technology with negative health effects (here).


The posts claim that Russia has not had to use intensive care units and ventilators for COVID-19, which is false.

Reuters and Getty Images photos of intensive care units and ventilators being used in Russia during the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen here , here , here and here .

In the articles and posts it is suggested that taking antibiotic tablets, anti-inflammatories and anticoagulants (blood thinners) can be used to treat the illness. As this Reuters fact check explains here the symptoms of COVID-19 can be treated with anticoagulants and anti-inflammatories, but antibiotics are not effective against the viral infection, and are only recommended for COVID-19 patients who also have a bacterial infection.

The WHO explains that “antibiotics do not work against viruses” (here).

In September 2020, the European Medicines Agency endorsed using the anti-inflammatory drug, dexamethasone, to treat COVID-19 patients with breathing difficulties, after a study by researchers at the University of Oxford, showed in June that dexamethasone reduced death rates by about a third in severely ill, hospitalised COVID-19 patients (here).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory) can be taken to reduce symptoms associated with COVID-19, such as a fever (here). They add that blood thinners to prevent or treat blood clots may be used for severely ill hospitalized patients, depending on complications, as laid out in detail by the NIH here .


Partly False. COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacterium, that has been the cause of death for victims of the pandemic in Russia just as elsewhere. Anticoagulants and anti-inflammatories are used to treat COVID-19 but antibiotics are only effective when patients also have a bacterial infection. Claims related to WHO bans on COVID-19 autopsies, lack of ICU use in Russia and 5G are false.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work .