ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Doctors in coronavirus hotspots in Turkey say hospitals are filling up with more cases than reflected in the official national tally, which has risen above 1,000 this week.
Intensive care units (ICUs) and emergency rooms in hospitals reserved for COVID-19 patients are at full capacity in the capital Ankara and the southeastern city of Gaziantep, the associations told Reuters doctors from those areas this week.
The government, which lifted a partial lockdown in June to revive the economy, issued its own warning on Tuesday when the health minister called the 1,083 new cases of COVID-19 a “severe” increase after a weekend. end of four days.
In response, authorities rolled out new inspections and enforcement measures, including fines for not wearing masks or maintaining social distancing. The new cases had hovered just below 1,000 for more than three weeks, according to official figures.
But Aysegul Ates Tarla, head of the Gaziantep-Kilis Chamber of Physicians, said that a single hospital in the region recently recorded 200 new cases of COVID-19 in one day, the rate of infection among health workers being particularly high.
In Ankara, Ali Karakoc, secretary general of his chamber of physicians, said about 1,000 people tested positive in the capital every day and he blamed what he called a premature easing of lockdown measures in June.
“Patients are forced to wait on stretchers for hours or are sent home. Even those who suffer from pneumonia are sent home because they cannot find a place, ”he said, adding that the dedicated COVID beds were now full.
The Health Ministry, which divides cases by regions in daily updates, was not immediately available for comment.
According to a document seen by Reuters, the Ankara Provincial Health Authority has asked all hospitals to reserve 50% of empty clinic beds and all intensive care beds for COVID-19, and has requested delays in all elective surgeries and internal medicine admissions.
Separately, the authority said 63% of intensive care beds in Ankara were occupied while 50% of all hospital beds were occupied. “The pandemic is still under control in our province,” he said.
Graph – Coronavirus cases in Turkey are increasing:
Ignore the rules
Official figures show that the novel coronavirus has killed 5,765 people and infected 234,934 in Turkey, placing the country 17th in the world in a Reuters tally of the total number of cases.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s government pushed for countries to re-allow tourists to travel to Turkey to support the economy, and Germany on Tuesday lifted travel warnings for parts of Turkey.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the increase in the number of cases is mainly due to people ignoring the rules.
In July, he posted on Twitter a photo of crowded football fans watching a game with the question, “Did everyone hold their breath for 90 minutes?
The government said Thursday would mark the most intensive inspections yet of markets, businesses, restaurants and other public spaces.
Karakoc from Ankara Medical Group said the government could do more. “If you let people sit side by side in public transport, if you make them work side by side in factories, people will ignore it when you warn them,” he said.
In Gaziantep, Ates Tarla said authorities would likely increase the bed capacity in COVID-19 units by 25% to free up space before she expects there to be an increase in infections. two weeks after the holidays.
Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Mark Heinrich