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Turkish govt accused of hiding true extent of virus outbreak

Turkey’s government is being accused of hiding the true extent of the country's coronavirus outbreak after the health minister revealed that the daily COVID-19 figures published by his ministry reflect only patients with symptoms and not all positive cases.

Minister Fahrettin Koca acknowledged during a news conference late Wednesday that since July 29, Turkey has been reporting the number of patients being cared for in hospitals or at their homes. The count did not include asymptomatic positive cases, he said, ignoring a question about the number of new positive coronavirus cases per day, a key indicator of where the outbreak is headed in any country.

“We are talking about people with symptoms. We are giving this as the daily number of patients,” he told reporters.

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment holds a placard during a demonstration against the Turkish goverment's health policy in front of Istanbul University medical faculty, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Amid surging numbers of COVID-19 deaths and cases in the country, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) had called out and urge the authorities to step up measures. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

The revelation led to an outcry on social media, with people calling on the government to reveal the true spread of the coronavirus among the population of 83 million. The hashtag asking “what Is the number of cases?” in Turkish was trending on Twitter on Thursday.

The Turkish Medical Association, which has for months accused the government of underreporting cases, called for transparency. The group had been questioning the daily coronavirus data after the government on July 29 changed the wording of the count from “case” to “patient.”

“You failed to lead the process transparently. You hid the truth. You failed to prevent the spread,” the group said.

A health worker wearing a face mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus wears and a picture of a black ribbon to raise concerns over COVID-19 deaths and increasing numbers of patients, especially among healthcare workers, participates in a demonstration against the Turkish goverment's health policy in front of Istanbul University medical faculty, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Amid surging numbers of COVID-19 deaths and cases in the country, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) had called out and urge the authorities to step up measures. (AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

Sebnem Korur-Fincancı who heads the association tweeted: “The truth is our right.”

The minister’s admission came after an opposition legislator, Murat Emir, claimed that the true number of daily new infections in Turkey was 19 times higher than the daily figures reported by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

Koca refuted the claim, insisting that all information published on a table showing Turkey's daily coronavirus count “is correct.”

Health workers and doctors wearing personal protective equipment hold a protest against the Turkish goverment's health policy in front of Istanbul University medical faculty, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Amid surging numbers of COVID-19 deaths and cases in the country, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) had called out and urge the authorities to step up measures. The banner reads in Turkish: "You can not manage, we are dying.(we are burning out)".(AP PhotoEmrah Gurel)

The government on Wednesday reported 1,391 new coronavirus “patients” and 65 deaths. Since the pandemic began, Turkey says 318,000 residents have been infected and 8,195 have died.

Experts say reported numbers in all countries understate the true toll of the pandemic, due to limited testing, missed cases, data tampering by some governments and other factors.

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Backdropped by Istanbul's iconic Galata Tower, people wearing masks for protection against the spread of coronavirus, walk over Eminonu bridge in Istanbul, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. Turkey is getting tough on people who flout self-isolation rules despite testing positive for the coronavirus. An Interior Ministry circular sent to the country's 81 provinces on Friday said people caught leaving their homes despite isolation orders will be quarantined and supervised at state-owned dormitories or hostels. (AP PhotoYasin Akgul)

A wedding photographer's assistant, wearing a mask for protection against the spread of coronavirus, holds lighting equipment, as a couple poses for photographs backdropped by Istanbul's iconic Maiden's Tower (Kiz Kulesi) at the Bosphorus Strait separating the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. Turkey is getting tough on people who flout self-isolation rules despite testing positive for the coronavirus. An Interior Ministry circular sent to the country's 81 provinces on Friday said people caught leaving their homes despite isolation orders will be quarantined and supervised at state-owned dormitories or hostels. (AP PhotoYasin Akgul)