Alarm bells sounding louder over outbreak in Turkey

Alarm bells sounding louder over outbreak in Turkey
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People wearing masks to help protect against the spread of coronavirus, visit a public garden. in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (AP)
Alarm bells sounding louder over outbreak in Turkey
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Coronavirus deaths in Turkey rose to a record for the seventh consecutive day on Sunday and the number of new cases remained high. (File/AFP)
Alarm bells sounding louder over outbreak in Turkey
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Municipality workers disinfect the grounds of the historical Suleymaniye Mosque, in Istanbul. (File/AP)
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Updated 30 November 2020

Alarm bells sounding louder over outbreak in Turkey

Alarm bells sounding louder over outbreak in Turkey
  • Opponents say the government needs to take tougher action
  • "Our health army is under a heavy burden," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter"

ANKARA: The death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey has risen for the sixth day in a row and alarm bells are ringing about the capacity of intensive care units across the country to cope.

“Don’t leave your houses this week. We have to be on alert,” Ismail Cinel, the head of the Turkish Society of Intensive Care, warned on Saturday as daily death rates hit a record high for the sixth consecutive day.

Official data from the Health Ministry showed 182 fatalities and 30,103 coronavirus infections in just 24 hours, including asymptomatic ones according to the recently updated counting method used since Nov. 25. The country previously only reported symptomatic cases.

With the new tally, the country suddenly became one of the worst-affected countries on a global level while it was among the least-hit ones four days ago.

The Turkish Medical Association has warned for a long time that the government’s previous count was not displaying the true scale of the contagion, and the medical group estimates there are more than 50,000 new daily cases, far higher than the official figures.

According to Dr. Ergin Kocyildirim, a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon and an assistant professor in the department of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, the decision to change how cases were reported was not related to the World Health Organization’s joint vaccine distribution program as Turkey does not fit the requirements in terms of gross national income per capita.

“Over the summer Turkey had financial difficulties continuing the lockdown precautions so this forced the government to reopen the economy,” he told Arab News, speaking about the previous method of counting only symptomatic cases.

Kocyildirim does not believe in the transparency of sharing data during the outbreak in Turkey.

“And now Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has promised a free vaccination program. It is clear that Turkey has a management problem in terms of mass distribution projects. Mask distribution became quite a big problem followed by the start of the seasonal flu vaccination program,” he said.

In a much-anticipated move from the scientific world and opposition politicians who were claiming that decisions were taken politically, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally left the responsibility with the country’s coronavirus scientific advisory board for deciding which measures will be taken in the fight against the worsening pandemic.

“The primary responsibility about the new measures belongs to the scientific advisory board,” he said.

Turkey announced last week new measures to fight the virus, including a partial curfew on weekends from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m.

But the measures were deemed to not go far enough by medical groups concerned about the exhaustion in the Turkish health system fighting the outbreak.

“The course of the pandemic has been interesting in Turkey,” Dr. Mehmet Adin, from Yale University, told Arab News.

“Initially, like everyone else, I thought we were doing a great job. Over the course of the pandemic, particularly in the late summer, alarm bells were ringing so loud. We could have acted upon this, but I think we failed to a large extent.”

According to Adin, frontline staff have been working extraordinarily hard across the country, but this was not enough when dealing with a massive public health problem.

“Policy implementations since early summer were rather loose. The health minister was at the forefront of the war against the virus. The coronavirus task force, the so-called scientific advisory board, fell short, complaining of ‘not knowing the real case numbers,’ although I believe this should not be an excuse,” he said.

Adin said that there was no need to hear the real numbers from officials in an era of massive data flow and communication.

“I, from thousands of miles away, was able to see where it was going. I think the taskforce also fell short of catching up with evolving practices across the scientific community and literature. For example, Plaquenil, an anti-malaria drug that has long been shown to be ineffective in all forms of COVID-19, if not potentially hazardous, is still in use,” he said.

In the meantime, the number of seriously ill patients and fatalities is also increasing, while cities such as Istanbul are facing their “third peak.”

“You can change reality by your actions, but it is very hard to do so by your rhetoric,” Adin said, adding that evidence-based policy implementation was required when dealing with a pandemic.

“We know from our experience that one needs to act fast and know that every minute counts. All public measures, lockdowns and policies need to be implemented based on regional numbers and scientific evidence. Given the partial lockdowns and age-specific curfews, about which I have doubts about their effectiveness, the primary goal seems to be mitigation,” he said.

According to Adin, the Turkish government cannot put out a fire by extinguishing it partially — or fighting it at night and then letting the fire explode during the day.

“You need to fight consistently and reasonably if you want to distinguish this fire. The virus is not going anywhere, and obviously herd immunity is a utopia until there is nationwide vaccine deployment,” 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 22 January 2021

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.