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Covid-19: Turkey announces figures for asymptomatic cases for first time since July

Country shatters previous record-high numbers as inclusion of asymptomatic cases reveal scale of outbreak
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca noted that around 80 percent of people who test positive were either asymptomatic or showed slight symptoms
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca says 80 percent who test positive are either asymptomatic or show slight symptoms (AFP/File photo)

Turkey has recorded 28,351 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, with 6,814 of those showing symptoms, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday.

The total was by far the highest reported by the government since the outbreak began. The previous daily high, which only included symptomatic cases, was 7,381, recorded on Tuesday.

The numbers of daily cases reported this week in Turkey have been higher than during the country's last peak of the virus in April.

Koca's announcement comes during another wave of the virus and marks the first time Ankara has included asymptomatic cases in their total since July, allowing the true scale of the viral outbreak to be seen.

Despite reporting daily figures since March, Turkish authorities had only been reporting symptomatic cases since the summer.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Koca unexpectedly said Ankara would begin announcing the total numbers, both symptomatic and asymptomatic.

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"In line with requests from our people, we plan on including positive cases that do not show symptoms in the daily table," he said.

The minister noted that about 80 percent of people who test positive were either asymptomatic or showed slight symptoms.

Health Ministry data on Wednesday showed 168 people had died from Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, the most since the beginning of the outbreak, raising the country's death toll to 12,840.

Symptomatic patients totalled 467,730 as of Wednesday, data from the ministry's website showed. Koca said the total number of cases would be revealed in the coming days.

He also announced that Turkey had signed a contract to buy 50 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, and added that vaccines may begin distribution by mid-December.

"The important thing here [is] for us to start using vaccines which are known to be effective and reliable ... I think the vaccination calendar could start on December 11," Koca said.

Sinovac's experimental Covid-19 vaccine CoronaVac triggers a quick immune response, but the level of antibodies produced is lower than found in people who had contracted the virus and recovered, preliminary trial results show.

German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and American firm Pfizer, joint developers of a vaccine with 90 percent effectiveness, will prioritise Turkey as one of the first countries to receive the vaccine, a senior Turkish official told Middle East Eye earlier this month.

In response to the latest wave of Covid-19 cases, Turkish authorities have issued new measures to curb the spread of the virus, including closing schools and imposing a partial lockdown at weekends.