Turkey’s health minister has compared the city of Istanbul to Wuhan — the Chinese city where the novel coronavirus first emerged — as epicenter of infections in Turkey.
“Turkey’s Wuhan was Istanbul,” Fahrettin Koca told a columnist from the pro-government Sabah newspaper in an interview published Friday. Koca claimed the spread of COVID-19 in Istanbul was brought under control through contact tracing executed by a team of experts, and early treatment.
“They followed trails like medical detectives,” he said and argued it would have been difficult to contain the virus otherwise.
The latest official figures show 101,790 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Turkey and 2,491 people have died. The country ranks seventh in the world in the number of confirmed infections, surpassing Iran and China, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Experts say the true toll of the pandemic around the world is much higher than the Johns Hopkins tally, due in part to limited testing and difficulties in counting the dead in the midst of a crisis. Nearly 800,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Turkey, which has a population of 83 million.
The highest number of cases is in Istanbul, the health minister said earlier in April. Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city with over 15 million residents and is in the second day of a four-day lockdown along with 30 other provinces.
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has refrained from imposing a total lockdown, fearing its negative impact on the already fragile economy. It has opted for piecemeal measures instead, including weekend curfews and banning people above the age of 65 and below the age of 20 from leaving their homes.