The World Health Organization’s office in Turkey has called on the country to report COVID-19 data in line with the UN body’s guidance to “harmonise data collection and response measures.”
The WHO’s statement comes days after Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca revealed that the daily COVID-19 figures published by the ministry since July 29 reflected only patients with symptoms, excluding asymptomatic positive cases.
Critics have questioned the veracity of the case and death toll numbers Turkey has reported during the pandemic.
The WHO defines confirmed cases as “a person with laboratory confirmation of COVID-19 infection, irrespective of clinical signs and symptoms.”
While Koca said the government did not disclose asymptomatic cases, he noted that contact-tracing teams still managed to isolate them and prevent the virus from spreading.
The WHO statement, released on Oct. 2, commended Turkey on its increased testing capacity and contact tracing efforts.
“Turkey has been isolating all COVID-19 positive cases, regardless of their symptoms,” it said.
It added that the WHO has been consulting with members, including Turkey, to improve reporting and data collection.
The official daily count of new infections remained fairly stable in September in Turkey typically between about 1,500 and 1,700 cases.
A document shared on Sept. 29 by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Murat Emir showed the number of positive cases on Sept. 10 across Turkey to be 29,377, compared with the 1,512 new patients announced by the health ministry that day.
Emir said the document was a screenshot of the health ministry’s official laboratory results portal – which cannot be accessed by the public.
Koca denied the veracity of the document, saying that the ministry did not have such an interface.
“All the information on the table we give is correct,” he said.