Turkish doctors call for full nationwide lockdown 'before it is too late'

Turkish doctors have urged at least a 14-day lockdown before the COVID-19 pandemic further gets out of control. Prof. Dr. Murat Akova said that Turkey can see a daily COVID-19 case count of 128,000 if the government refuses to expand the scope of restrictions.

This photo shows people walking on Istanbul's İstiklal Avenue.

Müzeyyen Yüce – Serkan Alan / DUVAR

Turkish doctors have urged the government to announce a country lockdown before the COVID-19 pandemic further gets out of control.

Murat Akova, a professor at the Diseases Department at the Hacettepe University School of Medicine in Ankara, said that the daily COVID-19 cases could reach 128,000 from the current level of 29,000 if no further restrictions are undertaken.

“The Health Ministry's requests of 'Please stay at home' will not have a result. The only weapon we currently have [in the fight against the virus] is to go into a full lockdown nationwide. It is a must that the restrictions which will expand the partial curfew measures are implemented. At least a 14-day lockdown will be sufficient to curb the violent spread of the virus,” Akova said.

Akova's comments came after Ankara resumed publishing all positive cases, including asymptomatic ones on Nov. 25. Ankara had only been reporting symptomatic cases since the summer, which critics said masked the true scale of the outbreak.

Turkey on Nov. 26 reported the highest number of new daily COVID-19 infections yet with 29,132 COVID-19 cases. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that the course of the pandemic will determine whether new restrictions will be implemented in the upcoming days or not.

Koca also said Turkey had signed a contract to buy 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd and the vaccines would be delivered in the months of December, January and February.

Akova said even if the vaccine arrives in Turkey in December, its affects could be observed in February 2021 at the earliest. He said that this vaccine is normally administrated in a two-dose regime, 14 days apart. “It is in any case obvious that the quantity that will arrive in Turkey will not be sufficient for everyone. So, we need to focus on other measures, setting aside the vaccine issue,” Akova said.

Prof. Dr. Kayıhan Pala, a member of the Turkish Medical Association's (TTB) pandemic observation board, said that with the latest figures, Turkey has become the country with the fifth highest number of new coronavirus cases.

Pala said that the government's refusal to publish asymptomatic cases until so far has hidden the true scale of the pandemic. The renowned doctor urged at least a 14-day nationwide lockdown to contain the pandemic.

“There is no option other than shifting to a full lockdown with all conditions fulfilled, which will last at least for 14 days, or if possible 28 days. If this is not done, the death toll and the number of severe patients will gradually increase,” he said.

Pala also estimated the daily COVID-19 cases to be around at least 40,000, saying that PCR tests are only 60-70 percent accurate.

Latest figures show TBB was right since the very beginning: Main opposition chair

Meanwhile, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said that with the Health Ministry's decision to release all data on COVID-19 positive cases, Turkey has seen that the TTB's calculations had been true since the very beginning.

Kılıçdaroğlu's comments came as he received a visit from a delegation of TTB doctors on Nov. 26. The TTB delegation decried the threatening remarks to the CHP leader from mafia leader Alaattin Çakıcı, whose ties to Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chair Devlet Bahçeli are known. 

“Our people and our party have full trust in works undertaken by the TTB. We should continue exchanging our views with regards to your future works so that you enlighten us,” Kılıçdaroğlu told the delegation. 

Bahçeli in many instances called for the closure of the TTB after the organization launched a series of protest events, saying the government has been mismanaging the pandemic.