Turkish officials have confirmed only a fraction of the total number of coronavirus cases in the country, a leading medical association said on March 26.
A great number of sick people have applied to health institutions with clinical symptoms of the coronavirus disease, but have not been yet tested for the virus or their initial test results have come negative, the Turkish Medical Association Association (TTB) said in a written statement, emphasizing the need for repeat testing.
“The figures declared in the Health Minister's tweets are just the tip of the iceberg. The Turkish Medical Association and our physical colleagues on the field know very well that this is the situation in hospitals and following it very closely,” the statement said.
The association has said that sick people whose clinical symptoms and CT scans are suggestive of COVID-19 should be considered as coronavirus patients until "proven otherwise" with repeat tests and called on the government to announce the number of such patients.
“It is very well known from studies in the world that the sensitivity of PCR tests, which are used for diagnosis, is very low, and radiological findings show much more sensitivity compared to these tests,” the TTB said.Turkey’s coronavirus death toll jumps to 59, as confirmed cases increase to 2,433
On March 25, Turkish Health Minister announced that the coronavirus had so far killed 59 people in Turkey, an international crossroads with one of the world's biggest airports in Istanbul. About 33,000 tests have been done including about 5,000 in the last 24 hours, he said.
Earlier this week Koca said the kits sent to the United States were locally produced PCR tests for coronavirus and added Turkey had a monthly production capacity of 2 million tests. He said the tests purchased from China were "rapid tests," not PCR.
The TTB said that the country needs to ramp up testing as soon as possible.
“Since an insufficient number of tests have been conducted, the number of confirmed positive numbers announced by Health Minister falls short of explaining the current scene our country faces in terms of coronavirus outbreak,” the statement said.
The TTB also criticized the way coronavirus figures are shared with the public every day, saying instead of Minister Koca announcing them on Twitter every night, such data should be available on the Health Ministry's official website.
“In many of the developed countries, the statements are not released on the minister's tweet messages, which have a word limit, but instead by the health institutions authorized regarding this issue (such as Center for Disease Control in the U.S. and Robert Koch Institute in Germany),” the TTB said.
The association also demanded that authorities release these statistics with a breakdown by cities, age, gender and occupation.