© 2020
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Turkey Is Among The Countries Dealing With A Spike In COVID-19 Cases

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's look overseas now to ask how coronavirus affects Turkey. Officially, it reports more than 268,000 cases and 6,300 deaths. On a per capita basis, that seems far better than the worst-hit countries, like the United States. But some doctors doubt Turkey's numbers. Durrie Bouscaren reports.

DURRIE BOUSCAREN, BYLINE: In the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, doctors say, the hospitals are full, but the government won't admit it.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: (Speaking Turkish).

BOUSCAREN: This doctor says she and her colleagues have been forbidden from speaking publicly, so we're not identifying her. But staying quiet means people don't know how dangerous it is if they get sick.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: (Through interpreter) When they get infected and it starts to get serious, they start to understand the situation. When they tell them there are no beds, they get furious.

BOUSCAREN: They try to treat people at home. She says in the past month, at least 10 people have died waiting for a bed in the intensive care unit, which is full.

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: (Through interpreter) I feel like I'm working in vain.

BOUSCAREN: Doctors doubt the government's statistics on coronavirus. For example, on one day in August, the government claimed there were 199 new cases in the southeastern region. But on the same day, the Turkish Medical Association identified three times that number in just the province of Diyarbakir.

ELIF TURAN: (Through interpreter) We feel the impact of the pandemic in our region much more than the rest.

BOUSCAREN: Dr. Elif Turan, president of the association's Diyarbakir chapter, says hospitals are full throughout southeastern Turkey. The government denies that and reopened malls and offices and the country's borders to foreign tourists. Turan says that just made things worse.

TURAN: (Through interpreter) This caused the virus to spread and the cases to increase, so now life in Diyarbakir has quickly returned to normal.

BOUSCAREN: In a statement, Turkey's Ministry of Health says cases have increased but hospitals have enough beds for anyone who needs it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: (Speaking Turkish).

BOUSCAREN: In a speech a few days ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan banned engagement parties and told people to wear masks. But doctors say this doesn't address the severity of the problem.

Turkey is not the only country whose leaders rhetoric do not appear to reflect reality. This includes the U.S. and Brazil, among others, says Amrish Baidjoe, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

AMRISH BAIDJOE: You just are creating an atmosphere of - you know, there's no worry, so there is less compliance to the rules, which means that the virus can spread more easily, that you have more hospitalized cases, that you have more people in the intensive care and, ultimately, also more deaths in your country.

BOUSCAREN: In southeastern Turkey, residents say, that's exactly what happened. As the government allowed businesses and shopping malls to reopen, cases started to climb, and the hospitals filled.

For NPR News, I'm Durrie Bouscaren in Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.