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Coronavirus: Turkish government admits excluding asymptomatic cases from figures

Revelation prompts outrage as Turkish Medical Association accuses government of 'hiding the facts'
The official number of daily coronavirus cases in Turkey have begun to decline in recent days after rising over the past several weeks (Reuters)

Doctors and politicians in Turkey have reacted with outrage after the government admitted that it had been excluding asymptomatic cases from its coronavirus figures.

Turkey's health minister on Wednesday appeared to acknowledge that the government did not publish the full number of daily positive Covid-19 cases but only those that were symptomatic, while refuting a claim that the case number had been 19 times the official figures.

The official number of daily coronavirus cases in Turkey has begun to decline in recent days after rising over the past several weeks.

Politicians and medics have expressed doubt over the government's numbers, saying the number of coronavirus cases is actually much higher, Reuters reported.

During a weekly news conference, Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca said the number of daily new Covid-19 "patients," which he defined as those who are symptomatic, was more important than the number of new "cases," which include those who do not show symptoms.

"Not all cases are patients because there are those who show no symptoms at all even though their tests come back positive. These create the vast majority," he said.

'You hid the facts'

The Turkish Ministry of Health changed the wording of the data it shares daily in July. As of 29 July, the data showed the daily number of new "patients," while prior to that it showed the daily number of new "cases".

The Turkish Medical Association slammed the revelation on Twitter.

'We've been saying this for six months. You did not run the process transparently. You hid the facts. You did not prevent the epidemic from spreading'

- Turkish Medical Association

"We've been saying this for six months. You did not run the process transparently," they wrote.

"You hid the facts. You did not prevent the epidemic from spreading."

A document shared by opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker Murat Emir on Tuesday purportedly showed the number of positive cases on 10 September as 29,377, compared to the 1,512 new patients announced by the health ministry on that day.

Emir said the document was a screenshot of the health ministry's official laboratory results portal, which is inaccessible to the public.

Koca said the ministry did not have such an interface, that the document showed the wrong number of tests conducted on that day and that it had no date on it.

"I want to say that all the information on the table we give is correct," he said.

The death toll from coronavirus in Turkey stood at 8,130 as of Wednesday.