Turkey admits it hasn't been reporting all of its coronavirus cases

Turkey admits it hasn't been reporting all of its coronavirus cases
Critics have slammed the Turkish government over the revelation it has only published symptomatic cases since late July.
3 min read
01 October, 2020
Doctors and opposition figures have previously accused the government of misreporting coronavirus figures [Getty]
Turkey's health minister appeared to admit on Wednesday that the country has been misreporting its coronavirus case tally.

Fahrettin Koca told reporters the number of daily new Covid-19 "patients" - defined by the minister as symptomatic cases - was more important than the total number of positive coronavirus cases.

Health ministry data reflects that change in emphasis, according to Reuters, which defies World Health Organization (WHO) standards followed by the majority of countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As of July 29, the ministry has reported a daily tally of "patients", or symptomatic cases. Prior to that, the government reported a daily number of positive cases.

Doctors and opposition figures have previously accused the government of misreporting or manipulating the reported tally of Covid-19 cases.

A full toll of positive cases provides a more accurate estimation of the spread of the virus through the general population. 

Studies have shown that asymptomatic carriers of the Covid-19 virus can spread the virus.

One study published last month by JAMA Internal Medicine noted that asympomatic carriers - who made up around 30 percent of positive cases - carried as high a viral load as symptomatic carriers, and carried as much of the virus for nearly as long as their symptomatic counterparts.

Most countries report total positive cases, including asymptomatic cases.

On Tuesday, a lawmaker from Turkey's largest opposition party shared a document purportedly showing the true number of positive cases on September 10 as 29,377.

Data reported by the health ministry said there were 1,512 new "patients" that day.

Murat Emir, an MP for the Republican People's Party (CHP), said the document was a screenshot taken from the health ministry's internal laboratory results portal.

Health Minister Koca disputed the document on Wednesday, saying the ministry had no such portal.

"I want to say that all the information on the table we [publish] is correct," he told reporters.

Koca did not say how many additional asymptomatic cases had been registered by the ministry but said they made up the majority of all cases. 

Turkey's apparent misreporting of Covid-19 data could affect one of its most lucrative industries, tourism.

The Mediterranean nation has been a major destination for British travellers looking to avoid government-imposed quarantine periods upon their return.

Countries reporting an average toll of Covid-19 cases below 20 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period are part of the UK's 'travel corridor' system, which allows travellers to return without spending 14 days in self-isolation. 

If Turkey's number of coronavirus cases turns out to be higher than that threshold, the country could be axed from the 'travel corridor' list.

More than 8,000 people have died from the novel coronavirus in Turkey since the pandemic broke out earlier this year.

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