Elif Dağlı, a professor of pulmonology, has said the number of coronavirus infections among children in Turkey has almost doubled since the gradual opening of schools started on Sept. 21, according to a report in the Cumhuriyet daily on Friday.
Despite a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, the Turkish government opened schools for first graders and kindergarteners on Sept. 21. Other grade levels have gradually started in-person learning over the weeks despite widespread concerns among parents and health professionals.
“While 428 coronavirus patients were reported among children aged 5-14 in the July 20-29 period, this figure rose to 799 in the same age group from Oct. 20 to 29. This age group comprises school age children. It can be said that the opening of schools has increased the number of infections among children,” Dağlı said.
The professor said there is currently no systematic or scientific work investigating the frequency of coronavirus infections among children in Turkey; however, pediatricians say they receive calls from the parents of more and more children who test positive for the coronavirus. She said the Health Ministry last announced the daily coronavirus case report on Oct. 29.
Turkey does not reveal the exact number of the people infected with the coronavirus every day. The Turkish Health Ministry instead announces the number of “patients” who are being treated at hospitals for COVID-19, while people who have been infected with the virus but not hospitalized are excluded from the numbers.
In the meantime, Dağlı criticized the recent measures taken by the government to contain the pandemic, describing them very weak and ineffective for getting the pandemic under control.
As part of the new measures announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening, businesses such as restaurants, pastry shops, hairdressers, swimming pools, Internet cafes, theaters and cinemas will be closed at 10 p.m. Restaurants will be allowed to make home deliveries after that time. The measures also include flexible working hours for public servants.
“These measures are unfortunately inadequate to eradicate the problem. We need more effective measures just like those in Europe. The second wave [of infections] in Europe has begun with more strength than the first wave, and tight measures have been taken. We are stuck in the middle of the first wave and going upwards. It’s a pipe dream to expect good results when our measures are not stronger than the virus,” said the professor.
The Turkish government refuses to declare a lockdown or take preventative measures to bring the pandemic under control. A partial lockdown declared in the spring months was lifted in June.
Dağlı said the beds in all the intensive care units in İstanbul, where 40 percent of the COVID-19 cases in Turkey are seen, according to a statement from the health minister earlier this week, are filled with coronavirus patients and even the operating theaters have been turned into intensive care stations. She noted that there has been no study of the occupancy of intensive care beds in İstanbul but that many healthcare professionals describe the situation in the hospitals as overwhelming.
Meanwhile, according to a chart released by the Turkish Health Ministry on Tuesday, there were 2,311 coronavirus “patients” in Turkey over the past 24 hours, with 81 people dying from COVID-19.
The COVID-19 death toll in the country stands at 10,639, while the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units is 2,564.
Turkey reported its first COVID-19 case on March 11.