Alarm in Ankara as COVID-19 sweeps Turkish capital

Alarm in Ankara as COVID-19 sweeps Turkish capital

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Ankara
Medics wearing protective suits, members of Turkish Health Ministry's coronavirus contact tracing team, leave after visiting a home to check a suspected coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case in Ankara, Turkey, April 27, 2020. Picture taken April 27, 2020. REUTERS/Tuvan Gumrukcu

ANKARA: Surging coronavirus cases in Ankara are stretching hospitals to the limit and Turkish authorities need to impose a fresh lockdown to bring the virus under control, doctors in the Turkish capital say.

The city is now the epicentre of Turkey's COVID-19 outbreak, the government announced this week, and although authorities say there is no plan for a lockdown as yet officials privately say new measures may be needed soon.

"Ankara has become Wuhan," said geriatrics professor Mustafa Cankurtaran at Ankara's Hacettepe medical faculty, referring to the Chinese city where the new coronavirus first emerged.

"A 10 to 14 day lockdown should be imposed. Health capacity may be exceeded," he tweeted on Wednesday, urging the government to open all medical centres, including private health units.

Two officials told Reuters the number of cases in Ankara was rising faster than anticipated, and current measures including mask-wearing and social distancing were not having the results they anticipated.

"The daily positive cases are high enough to cause discomfort now, and everyone has started seeing daily new cases in their close circles," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"If new measures are not taken, it appears it will be more difficult to prevent new problems," the official added, saying some "city-based" steps could be taken.

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"SECOND PEAK"

Health minister Fahrettin Koca, describing a "second peak" in COVID-19 cases in Turkey, said the number of active cases in Ankara this week were twice the number in Istanbul - whose population is three times the size of the capital.

Ankara governor Vasip Sahin told reporters on Friday that he hoped the rising trend in the number of cases would not require stricter measures such as curfew.

"Curfew is a tough situation, we don't want to impose that. We believe that it's possible to reverse this trend in our city without such restrictions, Sahin said.

However, Ankara doctors and other health workers are exhausted, the Turkish Medics Association (TTB) says.

One doctor dealing with COVID-19 told Reuters there were over 1,000 daily cases at their Ankara hospital, not far below the official national daily total which stands at around 1,600. Patients were being treated in corridors, and doctors dying.

"Ankara is seriously in big trouble," the doctor said. "They really need to impose restrictions on being outdoors."

Asked about the numbers reported by the doctor, Turkey's Health Ministry stood by its figures.

Fatalities across the country have jumped to their highest since mid-May, when lockdowns were in place, with 49 deaths reported on Thursday.

At the weekend, the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara accused the government of playing down the scale of the pandemic, citing local information.

Source: Reuters/jt

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