Turkey not following WHO protocol in COVID-19 death reports - leading medical association

The Turkish Medical Association, the trade union representing most of Turkey's doctors,  has accused the Health Ministry of failing to follow World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations in reporting deaths from COVID-19, which have reached 725 according to country's official records.

The ministry is coding a number of deaths in which the patient has not tested positive for COVID-19, despite clinical findings which support the diagnosis, as viral pneumonia or death by natural causes, the TTB said in a statement it released on its website.

Turkey, whose first case of the virus was announced on March 11, has registered a soaring number of COVID-19 cases, over 34,000. But the official death toll has been steady, between 65-76 people per day for over a week.

“There are questions looming over the evaluation of Turkey’s COVID-19 pandemic through death reports. The death numbers announced in the last few days do not correlate with epidemiological distributions,’’ the TTB said.

WHO has listed two codes for the virus, calling for the use of U07.1 COVID-19, for when the virus is identified and confirmed by laboratory testing, and U07.2 COVID-19 for when the virus is not identified and laboratory confirmation is inconclusive or not available.

The TTB also called attention to the lack of increase in the number of deaths due to coronavirus in the country despite the soaring number of cases.

“There is no parallel between confirmed case numbers and the number of deaths. Surely, it is pleasing that there is no increase in the number of deaths, but it is noteworthy that this trajectory does not follow the pattern of other countries,’’ it added.

Meanwhile, the WHO on Monday said the novel coronavirus had spread significantly in Turkey over the last week and the majority of the cases were seen in Istanbul.

"We are alarmed that Turkey has seen a dramatic increase in virus spread over the last week. Sixty percent of cases were reported from Istanbul," WHO said.

Turkey, among the top 10 countries most affected by the deadly virus across the world according to WHO, on Tuesday followed the United States as the country with the second highest daily number of COVID-19 diagnoses with 3,892 cases.