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Turkish health minister under fire after announcing number of daily coronavirus cases for the first time

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Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has attracted widespread criticism for previously hiding the true scale of the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey after he announced the for the first time the daily number of COVID-19 infections in the country.

For the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Turkey in March, the Health Ministry on Wednesday announced the number of daily coronavirus infections, which stood at 28,351 over the past 24 hours.

Until now the ministry had announced the daily number of coronavirus “patients,” meaning the number of people with symptoms who had to be hospitalized. The ministry excluded people who tested positive for the coronavirus but showed no symptoms.

Following the minister’s announcement, which put Turkey at the top of countries in Europe for the highest number of coronavirus infections, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) called on Minister Koca to resign.

“The truth has a habit of revealing itself. The truths which we have been telling for months have been confirmed. You failed to manage the pandemic transparently. You hid the facts. You caused the pandemic to spread by telling people lies, hiding the facts and resorting to perception management [tactics],” the association tweeted, calling on Koca to resign.

The TTB has for months accused the government of painting a rosy picture about the management of the coronavirus pandemic and hiding the actual number of the people who were infected with the virus and who died of COVID-19.

The İstanbul Doctors’ Association also called on the health minister to resign, holding him responsible for the further spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives due to the pandemic. They [the government] hid the facts in order to be able to present a ‘success story’ to the public. It has been revealed that all that they told was a big lie,” said the association, also calling on Koca to resign.

According to a chart announced by the health ministry on Wednesday, 168 people in Turkey died of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, while the total death toll stands at 12.840.

The number of coronavirus deaths is also a matter of controversy as some opposition party mayors and politicians claim the death toll is much higher than announced.

İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said earlier this week that 186 people died in İstanbul on Sunday alone due to a contagious disease, namely COVID-19. However, the country’s health ministry announced the coronavirus death toll at 139 for the entire country on Sunday.

İmamoğlu said the İstanbul Municipality’s funeral services are overwhelmed by an increasing number of deaths in the city caused by the coronavirus and are reaching their limit.

According to Mustafa Adıgüzel, a deputy from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and also a medical practitioner, more than 1,000 people succumb to COVID-19 in Turkey every day.

“The Health Ministry keeps lying. Three provinces alone account for 315 COVID-19 deaths. On November 24, 211 in İstanbul, 73 in İzmir and 31 in Ankara [died]. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 11,600 in İstanbul, 2,087 in İzmir, 2,923 in Ankara, 16,610 in total [for the three cities], have died,” Adıgüzel tweeted on Wednesday.

Despite a surge in the number of coronavirus infections in the country, the Turkish government refuses to take strict preventative measures to contain the pandemic. Evening lockdowns were introduced over the weekend for the first time since June, with businesses such as restaurants and bars ordered to close.

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