Turkey will probably go back into COVID-19 lockdown next month, professor says

Turkey will likely in lockdown by the end of next month as COVID-19 infections rise and the official data is unreliable, according to a professor of public health cited by Cumhuriyet newspaper on Thursday.

“The political authorities do not share the facts with the public. This situation creates a crisis of trust. It is likely that by the end of September, we will be obliged to lockdown – which we had avoided and postponed - for 14 days,” Ahmet Saltık, professor of Public Health at Ankara University, said.

“The authorities do not want to halt the economy. So the epidemic doesn't halt either,” he said.

Saltık said there was an insufficient number of tests being carried out in Turkey, and that the number of cases announced by governors in many Turkish provinces far exceeded the official numbers.  

“[COVID-19] has reached terrible dimensions. It is necessary to multiply the number of cases and deaths [in Turkey] by at least two to three times,” he said.

He did not say how he arrived at that figure, and added: “We cannot obtain the data about the epidemic in a democratic transparency. This situation obstructs the fight against the epidemic.”

Turkey confirmed 1,178 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest daily tally since July 3 when 1,172 cases were recorded, after it had hovered below 1,000 a day for more than three weeks.

Hürriyet newspaper reported on Thursday that targeted lockdowns on particular neighbourhoods and streets are under consideration to halt the spread of COVID-19 in high risk areas.

Curfews will be declared in districts and neighbourhoods where there is high mobility and lack of social distancing, such as in parts of Istanbul, Ankara, Diyarbakır, Konya, Malatya, Şanlıurfa, Mardin, and Batman, Hürriyet said.

Travel between districts under lockdown will be closed except for essential needs and exceptional cases. Curfews on weekends may also be re-introduced in high risk provinces.

Turkey’s Interior Ministry told the country’s provincial governors to increase the inspections, and take additional preventative measures in streets, public transportation, areas, beaches, promenades, picnic areas, and sports and leisure areas.

Stricter punishments are set to be introduced for those who fail to comply with measures, including prison sentences of between two months to one year in serious cases, Hürriyet said.

Meanwhile, doctors in Turkey’s coronavirus hotspots say hospitals are filling up with more cases than are reflected in the official nationwide count.

Diken reported on Wednesday that a health official issued a warning over hospital capacity in the central Anatolian city of Konya. 

“If it goes at this pace, even another city hospital would not be enough to cope. We must be careful,” Konya Provincial Health Director Mehmet Koç said.

Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca denied on Twitter on Wednesday that there are any hospitals in Turkey that are full to capacity with COVID-19 patients. "The allegations are unfounded," he said.