Turkey’s top medical body says official COVID-19 figures still suspiciously low

Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Secretary General Vedat Bulut told reporters on Thursday that contact tracing units detected some 14,000 positive COVID-19 cases in Ankara in one day alone, expressing the top body’s doubts on the official figures announced by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

For the same day, Koca had announced 28,351 new cases and 6,814 patients; the difference coming from a definition of “patient” to exclude asymptomatic persons who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The 14,000 cases TTB detected did not include the tests carried out in hospitals, Bulut said.  “We can safely say even now that this 28,000 figure does not reflect the truth.”

“The truth has a habit of coming out,” TTB Central Committee Chairwoman Şebnem Korur Fincancı said. “We wish this wasn’t the case, we didn’t have so many patients, and we hadn’t lost all those healthcare workers.”

“We still believe this can be prevented,” Fincancı said, calling for a two- to four week-long total lockdown including in non-essential workplaces.

After infection, every person starts to show symptoms at different times, and experiences them at varying severities, Fincancı said, and as such, it is not appropriate to not include asymptomatic people in the figures.

On Thursday, the Health Ministry announced 29,132 new cases and 6,876 new patients, with 174 people losing their lives.

According to most recent official figures, there are 72,821 active cases in Turkey, and 13,014 people have lost their lives since March.

The ministry’s dedicated web page for the pandemic includes a spreadsheet with past data, but the spreadsheet doesn’t include the new “case” field, making it difficult to monitor the change over time.

Turkey has increased restrictions in several areas, reinstating curfews for the elderly and the young among others, but a full lockdown does not appear as part of the government’s plans.

“If we comply with precautions, we won’t need restrictions,” Koca said in a tweet on Thursday.