İstanbul has left Wuhan behind, needs urgent lockdown, doctors group warns

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The İstanbul Chamber of Physicians (İTO) has warned that Turkey’s most populous city of İstanbul now has more coronavirus infections than the number of cases reported in China’s Wuhan, where the first coronavirus infection was reported, saying a lockdown is urgently needed.

At a news conference on Tuesday a group of doctors read a statement from the İTO, saying: “The heaviest cost of the [coronavirus pandemic] is being paid by İstanbul, which at the beginning of the pandemic was described as Turkey’s Wuhan by the health minister; however, Wuhan has now been left behind.”

The Turkish government does not reveal the exact number of people infected with the coronavirus every day. The Health Ministry instead announces the number of “patients” who are being treated in hospitals for COVID-19, while people who have been infected with the virus but not hospitalized are excluded from the numbers.

However, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said last week that 40 percent of the coronavirus cases in the country are in İstanbul as he urged residents not to leave the city unless necessary.

“If you live in İstanbul, don’t leave the city. Around 40 percent of the [coronavirus] cases in Turkey are in İstanbul. You can be an asymptomatic patient or someone who had contact with a coronavirus patient but went unnoticed. If the travel is not very urgent, delay it,” Koca tweeted.

According to the İTO statement, ambulances can no longer meet the demand of coronavirus patients, and there are no longer a sufficient number of beds in hospitals for these patients.

“There are no longer an adequate number of beds in hospitals. New COVID-19 treatment units are opened every day. Many patients who need to be hospitalized are made to wait in the emergency ward because there are not enough beds. The patients who need intensive care cannot be treated and are made to wait for space in intensive care,” said the İTO’s statement.

Similar reports are also coming from other parts of the country. Earlier this month, Osman Bilgin, the governor of Kırklareli in northwestern Turkey, said the intensive care units in the city’s hospitals are currently full and that doctors are overwhelmed by the constantly increasing number of COVID-19 patients. He said the doctors may soon have to decide who gets COVID-19 treatment.

The İTO explained that the fight against the coronavirus cannot be won at hospitals but by taking measures to limit people’s mobility; otherwise, İstanbul’s healthcare infrastructure will soon collapse. The group said entry and exit from İstanbul should be restricted and that a lockdown of at least 14 days should be declared.

The Turkish government refuses to declare a lockdown or take effective preventative measures to bring the pandemic under control. A partial lockdown declared in the spring months was lifted in June.

In the meantime, the Ankara and İstanbul governor’s offices on Tuesday announced a curfew for people aged 65 and older outside the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. as part of efforts to contain the pandemic and protect these people, who are considered to be in the highest risk group.

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