Turkey runs out of coronavirus test kits as number of cases rises

As the number of people who test positive for the coronavirus increases and the country records its first virus-related death, Turkey is running out testing kits. In Istanbul, only four hospitals can currently provide the tests.

Hacı Bişkin / DUVAR

As the number of people infected by the coronavirus increased to 98 on March 17, Turkey is experiencing a shortage of testing kits. That same day, the country recorded its fist coronavirus-related death. 

A person who wished to remain anonymous recently returned from a trip abroad and went to a hospital in Istanbul to get tested for the coronavirus. The patient had a cough and a fever when they went to the Süreyyapaşa Pulmonology Teaching and Research Hospital, where they were then quarantined upon a diagnosis of pneumonia. 

The patient never found out whether they had contracted the coronavirus, as the hospital did not have any available test kits. 

“Unfortunately we don’t have any test kits. The Health Ministry will send some in three or four days and then there is a 10-day waiting period after the test is administered,” said an official from the hospital. 

Only four hospitals have the kit in Istanbul’

An employee of the Turkish Health Ministry’s Coronavirus call center confirmed that the Süreyyapaşa hospital had run out of testing kits. The employee said only four hospitals had the kit in Istanbul, citing the locations that the Health Ministry originally designated for testing in the city of over 18 million residents. 

On Istanbul’s European side, the hospitals that have the kit are: Haseki Training and Research Hospital, Bakırköy Sadi Konuk Trainaing and Research Hospital and Istanbul Training and Research Hospital. On the Asian side, the Kartal Lütfi Kırdar Training and Research Hospital has kits.

‘Lack of testing caused a major loss of time’

A board member of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) noted that the government’s choice to administer and process tests in only one lab in Ankara at the onset of the outbreak caused a major loss of time. The Health Ministry later said it would increase the number of test labs to 16. 

“The Health Ministry’s choice to only establish a test lab in the Ankara Public Health Center caused a huge waste of time,” said TTB Board Member Samet Mengüç.

“We’ve been telling them from the beginning that testing needs to be done in all centers, and swiftly.”

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry still hasn’t confirmed the accuracy of its domestically developed coronavirus testing kits. 

‘Announce the location of quarantine zones’

Mengüç added that the Health Ministry should be revealing the locations of the quarantine zones instead of just announcing the number of infected cases. 

“Rather than the numbers of test results, they need to announce the locations where the infection is dense, and where the quarantine zones have been established,” Mengüç said. 

He also maintained that even if Turkey receives more test kits, the TTB does not have data determining whether there are enough healthcare professionals in Turkey to administer and process them.