Turkey’s new coronavirus figures confirm experts’ worst fears

Turkey’s new coronavirus figures confirm experts’ worst fears
The Turkish Medical Association maintains official figures are still low compared with its estimate of at least 50,000 new coronavirus infections per day. (AP)
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Updated 29 November 2020

Turkey’s new coronavirus figures confirm experts’ worst fears

Turkey’s new coronavirus figures confirm experts’ worst fears
  • Turkish Medical Association has been warning for months that the government’s previous figures were concealing the graveness of the spread

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 faced with an alarming surge of cases that is fast exhausting the Turkish health system.
In an about-face, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government this week resumed reporting all positive coronavirus tests – not just the number of patients being treated for symptoms – pushing the number of daily cases to above 30,000. With the new data, the country jumped from being one of the least-affected countries in Europe to one of the worst-hit.
That came as no surprise to the Turkish Medical Association, which has been warning for months that the government’s previous figures were concealing the graveness of the spread and that the lack of transparency was contributing to the surge. The group maintains, however, that the ministry’s figures are still low compared with its estimate of at least 50,000 new infections per day.
No country can report exact numbers on the spread of the disease since many asymptomatic cases go undetected, but the previous way of counting made Turkey look relatively well-off in international comparisons, with daily new cases far below those reported in European countries including Italy, Britain and France.
That changed Wednesday as Turkey’s daily caseload almost quadrupled from about 7,400 to 28,300.
The country’s hospitals are overstretched, medical staff are burned out and contract tracers, who were once credited for keeping the outbreak under check, are struggling to track transmissions, Sebnem Korur Fincanci, who heads the association, told The Associated Press.
“It’s the perfect storm,” said Fincanci, whose group has come under attack from Erdogan and his nationalist allies for questioning the government’s figures and its response to the outbreak.
Even though the health minister has put the ICU bed occupancy rate at 70 percent, Ebru Kiraner, who heads the Istanbul-based Intensive Care Nurses’ Association, says intensive care unit beds in Istanbul’s hospitals are almost full, with doctors scrambling to find room for critically ill patients.
There is a shortage of nurses and the existing nursing staff is exhausted, she added.
“ICU nurses have not been able to return to their normal lives since March,” she told the AP. “Their children have not seen their mask-less faces in months.”
Erdogan said, however, there was “no problem” concerning the hospitals’ capacities. He blamed the surge on the public’s failure to wear masks, which is mandatory, and to abide by social distancing rules.
Demonstrating the seriousness of the outbreak, Turkey last month suspended leave for health care workers and temporarily banned resignations and early retirements during the pandemic. Similar bans were also put in place for three months in March.
The official daily COVID-19 deaths have also steadily risen to record numbers, reaching 13,373 on Saturday with 182 new deaths, in a reversal of fortune for the country that had been praised for managing to keep fatalities low. But those record numbers remain disputed too.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said 186 people had died of infectious diseases in the city on Nov. 22 – a day on which the government announced just 139 COVID-19 deaths for the whole of the country. The mayor also said around 450 burials are taking place daily in the city of 15 million compared with the average 180-200 recorded in November the previous year.
“We can only beat the outbreak through a process that is transparent,” said Imamoglu, who is from Turkey’s main opposition party. “Russia and Germany have announced a high death toll. Did Germany lose its shine? Did Russia collapse?”
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has rejected Imamoglu’s claims, saying: “I want to underline that all of the figures I am providing are accurate.”
Last week, Erdogan announced a series of restrictions in a bid to contain the contagion without impacting the already weakened economy or business activity. Opposition parties denounced them as “half-baked.” He introduced curfews for the first time since June, but limited them to weekend evenings, closed down restaurants and cafes except for takeout services and restricted the opening hours of malls, shops and hairdressers.
Both Fincanci and Kiraner said the measures don’t go far enough to contain transmissions.
“We need a total lockdown of at least two weeks, if not four weeks which science considers to be the most ideal amount,” Fincanci said.
Koca has said that the number of seriously ill patients and fatalities is on the rise and said some cities including Istanbul and Izmir are experiencing their “third peak.”
Turkey would wait, however, for two weeks to see the results of the weekend curfews and other restrictions before considering stricter lockdowns, he said.


UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths

UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths
Updated 56 min 54 sec ago

UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths

UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths
  • Dubai Economy issued 2,100 fines and warnings, and closed down 175 businesses in 2020
  • Kuwait records 570 cases, Oman reports 169 cases and 1 death

DUBAI: Authorities in the UAE on Thursday recorded 3,529 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest daily count to date, and four more deaths related to the disease.
Officials from the Ministry of Health and Prevention said the total number of cases in the country has reached 267,258, while the death toll stands at 766. A total of 239,322 patients have recovered from the disease, including 3,901 in the past 24 hours.
Dubai Economy, the emirate’s economic development authority, said it carried out 140,000 inspection visits last year, as a result of which it issued 2,100 fines and warnings, and closed down 175 businesses for failing to comply with precautionary measures designed to slow the spread of the virus.

During their latest daily inspection tours, the authority’s officials ordered one business to close, and issued 23 fines and two warnings for not following the health precautions.
Meanwhile Dubai Municipality announced it has stepped up its inspection campaigns. It added that five businesses were ordered to close, 18 were fined, and warnings were issued to 31 for lack of compliance with precautionary measures.
Dubai Tourism said it has issued more than 200 violation notices during the past three weeks and closed down about 20 establishments. It also announced that all previously issued entertainment permits are “on hold, effective immediately,” and added it will continue to evaluate the situation in consultation with the health authorities.
The General Department of Punitive and Correctional Institutions in Dubai Police has started to give the coronavirus vaccine to inmates of penal and correctional institutions, as part of the emirate’s efforts to achieve acquired immunity, according to a report by state news agency WAM.

Inmates reportedly said they were happy to be vaccinated and praised Dubai Police and medical staff in the prisons for providing them with the vaccinations, medical advice and check ups.
The Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, has launched a campaign to vaccinate people with disabilities, and their families. The effort will begin at the organization’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi, before expanding to Al-Ain and Al-Dhafra regions.

Abdullah Abdul Ali Al-Humaidan, the organization’s secretary-general, said that the vaccine is the safest and most effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19 and maintain the health and safety of the public.
Meanwhile, Umm Al-Quwain’s Executive Council informed all government agencies in the emirate that anti-coronavirus measures due to be implemented from Jan. 24 are being amended. The notice said all government employees will be required to take a PCR test every seven days, at their own expense, if they have not received the required two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This also applies to outsourced employees and public-service companies.
The council also urged all government agencies in the emirate to encourage their employees and workers to get the vaccination, which is available to everyone free of charge.
Elsewhere, Kuwait reported 570 new cases of COVID-19, raising the total in the country to 159,834. The death toll remains at 951, with no additional deaths reported in the previous 24 hours.

Oman’s health ministry confirmed 169 new cases and one additional death, bringing the national totals to 132,486 and 1,517, respectively.

In Bahrain the death toll stands at 366 after no new deaths were reported. The number of confirmed cases in the country increased by 305.