ANKARA, Turkey – When Turkey changed the way it reports daily COVID-19 infections, it confirmed what medical groups and opposition parties have long suspected – that the country is facing alarming cases that are rapidly depleting the Turkish health care system.
About the week, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to report all positive coronavirus tests this week – not just the number of patients treated for symptoms – raising the number of cases per day to over 30,000. With the new data, the country has jumped into one of the least affected countries in Europe.
This came as no surprise to the Turkish Medical Association, which had been warning for months that past government data concealed the severity of the spread and that a lack of transparency contributed to the surge. However, the group maintains that the ministry’s data remain low compared to an estimated at least 50,000 new infections a day.
No country can report exact figures for the spread of the disease, as many asymptomatic cases are not detected, but due to the previous counting method, Turkey was in a relatively good position in international comparison, with new daily cases much lower than in European countries, including Italy, Great Britain and France.
That changed on Wednesday, as Turkey’s daily administrative numbers nearly quadrupled, from about 7,400 to 28,300.
Hospitals in the country are overwhelmed, medical staff is burnt out, and contract trackers, once credited with controlling the epidemic, are struggling to track transfers, Sebnem Korur Fincanci, the association’s leader, told the Associated Press.
“This is the perfect storm,” said Fincanci, whose group was attacked by Erdogan and his nationalist allies for questioning the government’s data and its response to the outbreak.
Despite the fact that the Minister of Health has set the bed occupancy rate in the intensive care unit at 70%, Ebru Kiraner, who leads the Istanbul-based intensive care nursing association, says that intensive care unit beds in Istanbul hospitals are almost full, doctors are struggling to find a place. severe patients.
There is a shortage of nurses, the current nursing staff is exhausted, he added.
“ICU nurses have not been able to return to their normal lives since March,” he told the AP. “Their children haven’t seen their unmasked faces in months.”
However, Erdogan said there is “no problem” with the capacity of hospitals. The wave accused the public of failing to wear masks, which is mandatory, and adhering to social distance rules.
Demonstrating the severity of the outbreak, Turkey last month suspended the leave of health workers and temporarily banned resignations and early retirement in the pandemic. Similar bans came into force in March for three months.
COVID-19’s official daily deaths also rose steadily to a record high, reaching 13,373 on 182 new deaths on Saturday, reversing the country’s wealth, which was praised for managing to keep deaths low. But these record numbers are still controversial.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said 186 people died of infectious diseases in the city on November 22 – the day the government announced only 139 COVID-19 deaths across the country. The mayor also said there are about 450 funerals a day in the 15 million city, compared to an average of 180-200 registered in November last year.
“We can only defeat the epidemic through a transparent process,” said Imamoglu, Turkey’s main opposition party. “Russia and Germany have reported high death tolls. Has Germany lost its luster? Russia collapsed?
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca rejected Imamoglu’s claims, saying: “I would like to underline that all the information I have provided is accurate.”
Last week, Erdogan announced a series of restrictions in order to curb the infection without affecting an already weakened economy or business. Opposition parties described them as “semi-finished”. It introduced the curfew for the first time since June, but restricted them to weekend evenings only, closing restaurants and cafes except for delivery services, and limiting the opening hours of shopping malls, shops and hairdressers.
Both Fincanci and Kiraner said the measures did not go far enough to include the broadcasts.
“We need at least two weeks to complete, if not four weeks, which science considers to be the most ideal amount,” Fincanci said.
Koca said the number of serious illnesses and deaths was rising and said some cities, including Istanbul and Izmir, were experiencing a “third peak”. However, Turkey would wait two weeks to see the results of the weekend curfews and other restrictions before considering stricter closures, he said.
Meanwhile, the country has reached an agreement to receive 50 million doses of the vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company SinoVac and hopes to start administering medical staff and chronic patients next month. It is also in talks to purchase a vaccine developed by Pfizer in collaboration with pharmaceutical company BioNTech. A vaccine developed by Turkey is scheduled to be ready for use in April.
Erdogan said he also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the possibility of procuring a vaccine developed by the country.
Zeynep Bilginsoy of Istanbul contributed to this report.