Turkey has only been publishing symptomatic coronavirus cases - minister

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - 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 who are symptomatic, while refuting a claim that the case number had been 19 times the official figures.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca speaks during a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Cagla Durak

The official number of daily coronavirus cases in Turkey have 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 are actually much higher.

During a weekly news conference, 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.

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

A document shared by Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Murat Emir on Tuesday purportedly showed the number of positive cases on Sept. 10 were 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 by 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 8,195 as of Wednesday.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Angus MacSwan