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Opposition leaders accuse AKP of lying to public to mask scale of coronavirus pandemic

The leaders of two opposition parties in Turkey have accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of manipulating the number of coronavirus infections in the country in order to hide the true scale of the pandemic and of failing to take effective measures to prevent its spread.

Since Turkey reported its first coronavirus case in March, there have been suspicions that the daily numbers reported by the government about the course of the pandemic in the country are far fewer than the real figures. In the wake of growing criticism, the Health Ministry began only last week to report the number of all individuals who tested positive for the coronavirus, while it previously reported only the number of symptomatic “patients.”

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said the AKP government has greatly damaged Turkey’s image by announcing inaccurate numbers for coronavirus infections in the country as well as the death toll.

“Can a government tell lies? It would be to a certain extent understandable if they had not revealed any numbers, but nothing can damage Turkey’s image in the world more than reporting inaccurate numbers,” said Kılıçdaroğlu at a party meeting on Tuesday.

The CHP leader said the AKP government had failed to give an ear to statements put out by the Turkish Medical Association, which has been calling on the government to act with transparency regarding management of the pandemic.

The reporting of all coronavirus cases in Turkey, which number some 30,000 daily, caused the country jump from one of the least-affected countries in Europe to one of the worst hit.

“Are those governing the country ashamed of this result? No, they are not. They are admitting to having lied. This is unbelievable,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.

The official daily COVID-19 deaths have been steadily rising to record numbers in Turkey, reaching 31,219 on Monday with 188 new deaths. But those numbers are disputed as well since the TTB estimates the actual number of daily infections at least 50,000.

Leader of the İYİ (Good) Party Meral Akşener also directed heavy criticism at the AKP government for hiding the real numbers of the coronavirus pandemic for months.

Speaking at her party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, Akşener said: “By hiding the number of coronavirus cases and reporting only the number of ‘patients’ for months, they thought they would deceive everyone. This hasn’t worked. They just deceived themselves.”

The İYİ Party leader also called on the government to immediately declare a 14-day lockdown and to take measures to head off the financial problems faced by the public during the lockdown.

“Better late than never,” added Akşener.

Despite growing calls for a full lockdown to contain the surge of infections, the Turkish government has been taking lighter measures apparently because of financial concerns.

According to new coronavirus measures announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following a cabinet meeting on Monday, a curfew will be in effect on weekdays between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Erdoğan also announced total weekend lockdowns from 9 p.m. on Friday evenings to 5 a.m. on Mondays.

In the meantime, the TTB announced on Monday that seven healthcare professionals fell victim to the coronavirus in a single day as they were working to contain the pandemic.

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