Turkey wrong to say COVID-19 infections stabilising, doctors say

Sinan Adıyaman, head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), has said that the COVID-19 outbreak still was growing in Turkey, in contrast to official statements saying that the infection had stabilised, Deutsche Welle reported.

On Wednesday, Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in his daily Twitter update that the rate of infections was stabilising, suggesting the fast-spreading infection may be under relative control. But, Adıyaman said the scale of the outbreak remained unclear because diagnostic tests could detect only about 60 percent of positive cases and a majority of virus-related deaths were not being counted.

“We receive information based on our members’ observations from across the country that [show] the figures for cases and deaths are far higher,” Adıyaman said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that the number of new cases was tailing off in some parts of Europe, including Italy and Spain, but outbreaks were growing in Britain and Turkey.

"In fact, the WHO prediction is more accurate for Turkey. Because it is too early to say that we have taken control yet, even though healthcare professionals are working devotedly," Adıyaman said.

Adıyaman said that one of the reasons for the gap between the official numbers and the real situation is because the Health Ministry does not follow WHO regulations in reporting deaths from COVID-19, which have reached 1,518 according to country's official records.

He said patients that had died with COVID-19 symptoms but whose polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was negative had been excluded from the death toll. 

“We do not see an ulterior motive, this is a preference. But it presents an obstacle for us to see the true scale of the cases and make accurate international comparisons.”

The 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.

But, TTB on Apr. 8 said the health ministry was coding several deaths in which the patient had not tested positive for COVID-19, despite clinical findings which supported the diagnosis, such as viral pneumonia.