Dr. Irshad Ali Shaikh, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Turkey office, has said WHO was unaware of the scale of the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey as the country’s health ministry only recently began to report the number of daily infections, warning that Turkey’s healthcare system may soon collapse due to the soaring number of infections.
Shaikh’s remarks came during an exclusive interview with Deutsche Welle’s Turkish edition.
Turkey officially reported its first coronavirus case on March 11. Over the past nine months, more than 520,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus, according to official figures.
Only as of Nov. 25 did Turkey begin to report the number of people who tested positive for the coronavirus. As of July 29 the country was reporting only the number of “patients,” people who show symptoms and require hospitalization.
Shaikh said the WHO only learned the true scale of the pandemic in Turkey when the health ministry began to report all coronavirus cases including asymptomatic ones.
He said reporting the number of asymptomatic cases is very important for Turkey in reducing the spread of the virus, adding that those people play a key role in the spread of the pandemic around the world.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who has been from the very beginning of the pandemic criticized for not managing the pandemic with transparency, once said Turkey does not share any coronavirus data with the WHO before it reports them to its own people.
Commenting on the current course of the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey, where the health ministry reported 30,492 new cases and 195 COVID-19 deaths on Dec. 6, Shaikh said the numbers are “alarmingly high.”
He said although the situation in Turkey’s hospitals does not look as severe as the situation in hospitals in the US and Europe, the country’s healthcare system might collapse if the country continues along the same path.
There are daily reports from every part of the country from healthcare professionals and local administrators who say hospitals have reached capacity, that there are no empty beds or ventilators and that doctors are obliged to decide who gets treatment for COVID-19 and who doesn’t.