Turkey’s actual daily cases may exceed 80,000 as death toll surpasses 12,000

The Turkish Health Ministry reported 5,103 new COVID-19 patients and 141 deaths on Friday, pushing the country’s death toll to 12,084 and breaking the record for daily fatalities.

Hours before Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced Friday’s figures, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) published the results of its family physicians survey, which showed 47,629 daily cases nationwide, and 12,631 in Istanbul alone, based on 1,270 primary care physicians in 73 out of Turkey’s 81 provinces.

TTB Central Committee Chairwoman Şebnem Korur Fincancı said the actual number of daily cases could exceed 80,000 as the data was derived from limited sources. Meanwhile, participants reported a 49 percent rate of infection among primary care physicians and other staff.

“A pandemic response that placed the responsibility on the public and healthcare workers could not have succeeded, and it hasn’t,” TTB Central Committee Member Kazım Doğan Eroğulları said.

According to Eroğulları, Turkey’s pandemic response focused on the second-stage, therapeutic medicine at healthcare facilities, and not the first, preventative medicine, leading to the overwhelming of the system and 84 percent of healthcare workers reporting feeling exhaustion and burn-out “often” or “constantly” over eight months of pandemic management.

Official figures show a total of 55,597 active cases nationwide. TTB lacks central resources to announce alternative figures.

Turkey’s previous record for highest number of fatalities in one day was on April 19, when 127 people died.

Istanbul’s Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu also contested official figures again, following his objections earlier in the week.

“Data we have collected shows 410 deaths in Istanbul on Nov. 17,” İmamoğlu said in a morning show on Turkey’s Fox TV on Friday. “The number of deaths due to infectious disease is 164 for the same day.” There were 92 COVID-19 deaths nationwide on the same day in the official record.

As of Nov. 19, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has recorded 10,681 deaths due to infectious diseases, İmamoğlu said, based on death records available to the municipal services.

Minister Koca, speaking at a parliamentary budget commission meeting, said it would be wrong to assume COVID-19 to be the only infectious disease.

“I am crying out, I demand a three-week shutdown, let us come together,” İmamoğlu said. “Without a complete shutdown, partial measures may lead to more serious problems.”

Dr Fincancı, speaking to Artı TV, said a total shutdown has become a necessity. Precarious workers should be compensated for their loss of income and workers should be given paid leave during a strict, “at least two, up to four weeks of lockdown.”

Instead of a shutdown, the Interior Ministry on Friday announced a series of exceptions to the weekend lockdowns and curfews for residents aged above 65 and below 20.

According to the ministry, professional athletes, elderly citizens who still work, participants in nationwide exams, actors and crew in television shows and advertisements will be exempt from any curfews and lockdowns. The elderly and the young will also be allowed to leave their homes to attend Friday prayers at mosques, and elderly clergy of minority religions won’t need special permits to fulfill their religious duties. Foreign tourists are also exempt from all restrictions.