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Turkey’s coronavirus crisis feared to be spiraling out of control

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Alarming surges in coronavirus cases across Turkey and reports of hospitals running out of beds to accommodate coronavirus patients have raised fears about the outbreak spiraling out of control.

Turkey, which does not reveal the daily number of infections, identified “3,223 coronavirus patients” on Nov. 15. The number of patients refers only to the people who require hospitalization, while the number of people who test positive for the coronavirus but are treated at home or show no symptoms is not revealed.

A healthcare worker from a contact tracing team in İstanbul told the Birgün daily on condition of anonymity that contact tracing teams are unable to keep track of the soaring number of infections in the city.

“Our aim is to spot an infected person and isolate them to stop the spread of the virus, but we can’t keep up with the lists [of infected people] given to us. The contact tracing chain broke down several months ago. For instance, there is a COVID-19 patient; we want to reach the people they’ve been in contact with, but we simply can’t,” said the healthcare worker.

Unlike other countries, Turkey’s approach to fighting COVID-19 has centered around contact tracing instead of general testing or testing after clinical presentation; however, this method appears to be failing with the surge in the number of coronavirus cases.

There are also dozens of reports every day from various parts of the country about the scarcity of hospital beds, particularly in the country’s most populous city of İstanbul.

Professor Ahmet Saltık, from Ankara University’s Department of Public Health, told the Cumhuriyet daily in remarks published on Monday that the declaration of a 14-day lockdown is of crucial importance to break the chain of infection. “İstanbul is now at the peak of the pandemic. It is hard to find an intensive care unit bed. Doctors may have to decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t.”

According to a report from the İstanbul Municipality, COVID-19 cases are more widespread in İstanbul in districts where blue-collar workers predominantly live such as Avcılar, Bağcılar, Bahçelievler, Esenyurt, Ümraniye, Çekmeköy, Kurtköy, Pendik, Samandıra, Ümraniye and Tuzla.

Hospitals and healthcare workers in other parts of the country are challenged as well by the soaring number of COVID-19 patients.

Hulisi Şevkan, the mayor of Acıpayam in western Denizli province and also a medical doctor, had to warn residents from loudspeakers over the weekend that the hospitals in the district are full, that there is no more space in intensive care units and that there will be more COVID-19 deaths if measures are not taken.

In the meantime, Deva Party leader Ali Babacan said his party estimates the daily number of coronavirus infections in Turkey to be around 30-40,000, criticizing the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for failing to reveal the real number of coronavirus cases.

“I think Turkey is the only country in the world that tries to deceive its people by making a distinction between the number of [coronavirus] cases and patients in hospitals. The only measure taken by the government cannot only be telling people to ‘wear masks’,” said Babacan.

The Turkish government refuses to declare a lockdown or take preventative measures to bring the pandemic under control. A partial lockdown declared in the spring months was lifted in June.

Turkey reported its first COVID-19 case on March 11.

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