Nergis Demirkaya / DUVAR

The Turkish Medical Association has reiterated its call to the Health Ministry on using the appropriate World Health Organization (WHO) codes when reporting coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths.

The association has been claiming that the number of coronavirus deaths in the country is higher than the official figures announced daily by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, since the ministry “doesn’t convey the numbers to the WHO using the appropriate codes.”

It also said that the WHO suggested two international codes for the virus, U07.1 and U07.2, but that Turkey doesn’t use the second one and instead uses the one based only on PCR results.

The second code is used for people whose tests are negative, but who are suspected to have been infected with the virus based on clinical and epidemiological findings.

According to the association, some deaths are recorded as being caused by “infectious diseases,” “viral pneumonia” or as “natural death,” ignoring those who died over coronavirus.

When asked about the association’s claims, Koca said that the WHO doesn’t suggest the second code on suspicious cases to countries that can carry out PCR tests.

The association, however, refuted Koca’s statements, with its head Sinan Adıyaman giving the situation in the U.S. as an example.

Adıyaman said that the number of coronavirus deaths doubled in New York due to the inclusion of those who died after being suspected of having been infected with the virus.

“Is the U.S. not capable of carrying out PCR tests?” asked Adıyaman.

“The minister didn’t respond fully to the question. There is always a perception operation. They say, ‘The WHO praises us.’ The WHO chair didn’t praise Turkey. He only thanked us for sending help,” he told Duvar.

Saying that not using the WHO code bears the risks of not being able to determine the scope of the problem and not adopting the necessary precautions, Adıyaman noted that China revised its death toll and the number of cases via adding the suspected cases.

“The death toll is announced every night. This should continue to be done, but the numbers regarding suspected deaths can be shared in a separate category. Our concern is not to count deaths,” he said.

“We are realistic. We are not doing politics. We are struggling for the scientific data to be put forward clearly. The death toll is probably higher. The information we receive suggests that,” he added.