January deaths from 'infection' surpass peak 2021 pandemic numbers in Istanbul

Turkey’s Medical Association (TTB) on Jan. 16 revealed that deaths from unspecified “infection” in Istanbul surpassed the death toll at the height of the pandemic in 2021. Doctors call patients to caution and demand transparency from the Health Ministry.

Duvar English

Turkey’s Medical Association (TTB) on Jan. 16 noted an unexplained increase in the number of deaths from “infection” in Istanbul during the first weeks of January, according to reporting by online news outlet Diken

Güçlü Yaman of the TTB’s Pandemic Working Group presented the calculations that showed deaths from infections in Istanbul as of Jan. 12 were 14% above the pre-pandemic numbers. In the last week of 2023, the above-average number of deaths was around 58 each day. 

TTB along with other associations has reported that all healthcare units have been short of beds as patient volumes increased due to COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory tract infections. 

Monthly death numbers in Istanbul through the years. 

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Jan. 12 stated that the density was normal, saying that an increasing trend in intensive care applications was observed each winter season. 

Yaman responded that this year’s trajectory was too severe to dismiss as a seasonal trend. He added that 25 percent more people died in Istanbul compared to pre-pandemic values, which was “extreme and warranted an official explanation.”

Yaman studied the official death toll data published by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and said they observed a familiar “death wave” reminiscent of the COVID era.  

Yaman disagreed with Minister Koca’s claim that COVID-19 was eradicated and drew attention to the fact that Istanbul’s death toll surpassed monthly death numbers in 2021, at the height of the pandemic. According to Yaman, such an increase cannot be attributed to normal influenza or respiratory tract infections.

Yaman added that they estimated a similar trend in other provinces of Turkey, although they studied Istanbul deaths.

TTB executive board member Professor Esin Tuncay stated a variety of viruses were circulating, and complained of a lack of testing on the Health Ministry’s part. “The worst part is that we are forced to talk in estimations. Is this COVID-19 combined with another viral infection? We have no idea,” she expressed their frustration. 

She requested all immune-compromised people who have not yet been sick to get booster vaccinations. Tuncay also noted that the crowded hospital conditions exacerbated the spread of the virus. 

“Patients should stay home and rest to break the chain of contamination,” Tuncay warned and added that sick people must wear masks, especially in hospitals and public transportation. She emphasized the lack of any warnings from the Health Ministry.