Adjustment to Health Ministry figures places Turkey 8th globally for COVID-19 cases

The Turkish Health Ministry announced on Thursday that Turkey has had a total of 1,748,567 cases of COVID-19 coronavirus since the pandemic started in March, placing the country 8th in the world in terms of the most coronavirus cases.

Until Thursday, Turkey had been reporting only the number of total patients, which stood at 558,517 for Wednesday. With this figure, the country ranked 24th globally, between Chile (564,778 cases) and the Czech Republic (556,931 cases), according to statistics reference website Worldometer.

According to Turkey’s methodology, the number of patients implies only persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 and shown clinical symptoms, while the number of cases includes asymptomatic cases or cases with symptoms but no test to confirm. Daily statistics shifted between the two in July, when Turkey’s efforts to ease restrictions at the height of tourist season led to a rapid rise in infections.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca had promised on Wednesday to announce the full picture for the past few months, but the figures were only updated for Thursday.

According to journalist Metin Cihan, the ministry stopped announcing the total number of cases after July 29, “five days after the 350,000-strong crowds putting up a show in Hagia Sophia.”

From July 28 to 29, the categories shifted from Total/Daily Number of Cases to Total/Daily Number of Patients.

Former chief of the Turkish Medical Association, Dr Raşit Tükel, said the 1.7 million figure was probably not accurate either, as the numbers in daily announcements added up to 495,850 since Nov. 25.

“It is difficult for today’s total number of cases to reflect the true number,” Tükel said. “If it was, that would mean that it took eight months to accrue two-thirds of all cases, and a few weeks to accrue the most recent third. Is that realistic?”