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Turkey revealed real coronavirus numbers to get vaccines, says labor union official

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The Turkish Health Ministry, which has been criticized for hiding the true scale of the coronavirus pandemic, was forced to reveal the real number of coronavirus infections in Turkey in order to be able to acquire more COVID-19 vaccines, according to an official from Turkey’s Trade Union of Employees in Public Health and Social Services (SES), the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

Head of SES’s provincial branch Şiyar Güldiken said while the number of coronavirus infections in Turkey was previously around 500,000, it now stands at 1.7 million after the ministry began in late November to announce the number of all people who tested positive for the coronavirus in the face of harsh criticism and calls for more transparency.

From July to the end of November, the Turkish government made public only the comparatively small number of COVID-19 “patients” with symptoms.

The reporting of all coronavirus cases in Turkey, which number some 30,000 daily, has caused the country to jump from one of the least-affected countries to the sixth most affected in the world.

“After the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 vaccines would be distributed to countries in accordance with their number of infections, the ministry began to report all cases. If it hadn’t, it wouldn’t have been able to get enough vaccines. This is a global issue — that’s why it began to provide the real numbers,” said Güldiken.

The World Health Organization said it was going to prioritize countries according to their “fair allocation program,” meaning that countries with a bigger threat from COVID-19 to their health system will be first in line as part of COVAX, a program led by the World Health Organization, Global Vaccine Alliance Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness.

Several COVID-19 vaccines have been developed, while the trial phase continues for others. Some countries such as the UK and the US have already begun to vaccinate people with the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and US pharma giant Pfizer.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca recently announced that Turkey had signed a contract to buy 50 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech, which will be delivered in December, January and February.

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