ANKARA: Turkey’s top medical body has warned that the government is keeping key COVID-19 patient figures under wraps in order to gloss over the public health challenges facing the country, saying that the official statistics being given out are the “tip of the iceberg.”
The government has not disclosed the number of critical care or intubated patients since July 29, sparking fear and concern about the underlying reason for the confidentiality.
Prof. Sinan Adiyaman, chairman of the Turkish Medical Association (TBB), said that the pandemic statistics were being presented in a way that suited the Ministry of Health.
“They should however open more data for society’s access and be more transparent about the numbers,” he told Arab News. “Turkey still has weak pandemic management and officials in Ankara unfortunately prioritize economic and political concerns over public health measures.”
The TBB is expecting an increase in infections during Eid Al-Adha if public precautions are not taken in Turkey, where around 5,674 people have died due to the disease.
“Unfortunately due to the premature and uncontrolled moves of the government, the pandemic cannot be put under control and the figures about coronavirus-related deaths keep increasing since June 1,” Adiyaman added. “The local data we directly receive from our local agents show that there is a reality far beyond than the one which is officially announced by the Health Ministry.”
Officials in Ankara unfortunately prioritize economic and political concerns over public health measures.
Prof. Sinan Adiyaman, Chairman of the Turkish Medical Association
TBB claims that the center of Turkey’s pandemic is Istanbul, followed by the southeastern province of Diyarbakir.
According to Adiyaman, keeping the figures secret is likely to push people into becoming careless and ignoring the seriousness of the health crisis.
The latest official figures showed that there was a decrease in the number of daily coronavirus cases, dropping below the critical threshold of 1,000. But the TBB rejected the number, saying that the daily rates reached about 4,000 and that the figures provided by the government were “the tip of the iceberg.”
“We keep warning the governmental officials about taking measures to restrict social mobility in the country, but in vain. They adopted normalization measures very quickly by June 1. The number of infected active cases in Turkey are fivefold compared to the world standards, which shows the presence of patients whose COVID tests went negative, but who are in fact patients in clinical and radiological terms,” Adiyaman said.
The TBB has expressed its concerns since the start of the pandemic. It said that only giving statistics for patients testing positive, without including patients who tested negative but showed all the coronavirus symptoms, would undermine countrywide efforts to stop the pandemic. The information is considered important to stop the pandemic because it gives a fuller picture, as people assume that relatives, neighbors or friends who test negative but have COVID-19 symptoms do not need to respect social distancing or quarantine rules.
The World Health Organization (WHO) uses two key codes for identifying COVID-19 cases. One is for confirmed cases with laboratory testing and the other is for clinical or epidemiological diagnosis. Contrary to WHO guidelines, Turkey, which remains a COVID-19 hotspot in the Middle East, does not use the second code thereby keeping the number of infected people artificially low.
Turkey suspended flights to Iran and Afghanistan as part of its anti-coronavirus measures shortly after Turkish Airlines restarted international flights on June 11.
On Tuesday Germany extended its travel warning to Turkey over pandemic concerns, putting it on its list of high-risk countries.