Turkish government rejects lockdown as pandemic spirals out of control

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Due to the “collective immunity” policies implemented by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the interest of the ruling class, the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey is out of control. Turkey has become an epicenter of the pandemic, like India and Brazil. According to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, at least 85 percent of new cases in the country are due to the UK’s most contagious variant or B.1.1.7.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sits with his wife Emine during a congress rally of his ruling party in Ankara, Turkey on Wednesday March 24, 2021 (AP Pool).

Despite limited measures announced on April 13, the number of daily cases remains above 60,000, sometimes more than in the United States. In proportion to its population, Turkey (85 million) has more than tripled the rate of reported cases compared to India (1.4 billion people and nearly 300,000 cases daily). The test’s positivity rate is almost 20%. According to data from the Ministry of Health, 362 people died on Wednesday.

These figures greatly underestimate the true losses. While Turkey has overtaken the UK in terms of total number of cases with almost 4.4 million, with 37,000 deaths, it appears far behind countries like the UK (127,000), France (102,000) and Italy (118,000) in terms of total mortality. According to calculations by investigative filmmaker Güçlü Yaman, however, there had been an additional 98,000 deaths in Turkey at the start of March 2021.

Last week, an anonymous doctor treating coronavirus patients in Istanbul told the daily Cumhuriyet: “Even if a PCR test is positive, COVID-19 is not listed on the death certificate if the intensive care patient dies on average 15 to 20 days after being tested positive.”

This ongoing massacre is a direct result of the Turkish ruling class seeing the mass deaths and illness of millions of people as “acceptable”.

As the pandemic erupted uncontrollably as a predictable consequence of the ‘openness’ policy in early March, the Erdoğan government last week announced limited measures to calm growing social anger and prevent a collapse of the healthcare system. . However, he kept non-essential production and some classes in schools open.

“In the economy, things are going very well on the production side,” Erdoğan blithely said, saying his government had done very well against the pandemic.

He said corporate profits and competitiveness in global markets have guided his government’s response to the pandemic, not saving lives. “We need to reduce the number of infections below the general average around the world, especially in countries with which we have close relationships. Otherwise, we risk not being able to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered to us by the pandemic. “

The impact of the policy of “progressive normalization” at the beginning of March is quite clear. The death toll from COVID-19 in Turkey was 66 on February 28, when the number of critically ill patients fell to 1191. However, the official daily death toll has increased six-fold to almost 400, while that the number of critically ill patients has climbed to 3,400.

The government has rejected calls from health experts and scientists to stop non-essential production for 28 days, strengthen social distancing measures and speed up vaccination. It has adopted limited measures, such as opening the curfew at 7:00 p.m. rather than 9:00 p.m. on weekdays. However, almost all workers are exempt from curfews, so non-essential production can continue. Restaurants and cafes cannot accept customers indoors until May 16.

The irrationality of state policy manifests itself in the implementation of strict curfews, but only for those over 65, many of whom have been vaccinated, or in the ban on long-distance travel by private car, while there are no restrictions on crowded public transport by plane or buses.

After the government announced these limited measures, Dr Cavit Işık Yavuz of Hacettepe University in Ankara once again stressed that containing the pandemic requires large-scale lockdown measures. “At this point in the pandemic, you have to take the highest and broadest restrictions you can get by supporting society in social and economic terms. Otherwise, you have no chance of containing this pandemic. “

Since schools reopened to in-person instruction in March, at least 31 teachers have died from COVID-19. The children not only spread the disease, but began to be more severely affected. However, the government has kept kindergartens open to ensure that parents can go to work and generate profits for their employers.

Professor Dr. Sinan Çavun from Uludağ University in Bursa tweeted on Wednesday: “The reasons why the third wave [of the pandemic] is so bad are: 1) Our vaccination rate is low, 2) Schools are reopened, 3) Congresses are out of control [of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP in March], 4) Thousands of workers continue to work in factories, 5) The risk of contamination is very high in the public service and transport, 6) Continuation of home meetings. “

The president of the Turkish Intensive Care Society, Professor İsmail Cinel, warned: “The latest wave is unlike any other. Younger patients come with more tissue destruction. Our pediatric patients are also on the rise. “

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) called for protests across the country on April 15 under the slogan, “We are not giving up our right to life. Stop the dead! On April 12, TTB President Professor Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı said: “Our hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients, even the newly opened wards are not enough to meet the needs, and there are no space in intensive care units.

She pointed out that patients with serious illnesses other than COVID-19 are also at risk. “Not only COVID-19 patients, but also non-COVID-19 patients are harmed because of this image; they cannot access the care needed for problems that cannot be delayed. “

Health Minister Koca recently announced that the intensive care occupancy rate in Istanbul, the epicenter of the pandemic in Turkey, was 71.4%. Health workers said on a daily basis Evrensel that many hospitals in Istanbul have stopped elective surgeries.

Istanbul Medical Chamber officials announced that there was almost no room left in the intensive care units of Istanbul’s public hospitals, a situation that heads of private hospitals turned into an opportunity. Some private hospitals charge up to 15,000 Turkish Lira (nearly $ 1,850) per day from patients with COVID-19. Turkey’s monthly minimum wage is only 2,800 Turkish Liras.

The president of the Ankara medical chamber, Ali Karakoç, explained the dire situation in the capital, where COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization “are unfortunately kept on stretchers or at home. Either a patient must be discharged or die; new places are only opened in this way. … Every place is full in Ankara, including intensive care units in private hospitals.

According to official data on the number of weekly cases in cities, the number of cases per 100,000 in Istanbul between April 10 and April 16 rose to 920. In Istanbul, with a population of around 16 million, that means nearly 145,000 cases per week and 20,000 cases per day. This means that the city of Istanbul alone has more daily cases than any European country except France.

Only 7.9 million people, or less than 10 percent of the Turkish population, are fully vaccinated; Turkey’s more than 5 million refugees from war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East are not included in this statistic.

The devastating consequences of this policy of “social murder” are also reflected in an increase in the number of deaths among health workers, despite having received the Sinovac vaccine. TTB Family Medicine Division President Emrah Kırımlı said bianet: “We have not had any news of COVID-19 deaths among health workers for some time. But we started to hear about their deaths again. According to TTB data, 12 health workers have lost their lives so far in April. A total of 410 have died in Turkey since the start of the pandemic.

Kırımlı added: “More importantly, mutations are increasing. We know that Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine is less effective against coronavirus variants. Although mutations are so prevalent, once again consideration should be given to vaccinating health workers. “

This tragic observation does not diminish the need to vaccinate the population, because all vaccines have been shown to be effective in limiting contagion. However, it does indicate the urgency to mobilize workers in Turkey and internationally to fight to stop production and non-essential schools until the pandemic is contained. This is essential, along with full compensation for all affected workers and small businesses, along with other social distancing measures and a rapid, global vaccination campaign free of charge.



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