Public health specialists demand action as COVID-19 surges in Turkey

In Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government recently declared “the pandemic is over,” the vastly underreported official number of cases and deaths is rising rapidly. The complicity of the bourgeois opposition and the trade unions with the government’s policy of mass infection and death underscores the need for working people to take matters into their own hands to save lives and end the pandemic.

The official number of cases in the week of July 25 to August 1 reached 406,332, while 337 people died from COVID-19. According to the World Health Organization, Turkey ranked first in Europe and fifth in the world in terms of COVID-19 infections that week.

Tevfik Özlü, a member of the Official Coronavirus Scientific Committee, spoke with İhlas News Agency (İHA). In a devastating commentary on the policies of his own committee, Özlü said: “The sad thing is that the number of deaths, the number of cases, is not very important to me anymore. Since most people don’t get tested, they don’t reflect the real numbers. »

In February, despite warnings from public health specialists, Özlü said that COVID-19 “will eventually turn into a common respiratory infection, like the flu or the common cold.”

Health workers are going on strike across the country to protest working conditions and low wages. The banner reads: “We are on strike, we will fight until we get our rights.” Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday February 8, 2022. [AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici]

“We are experiencing the highest number of cases since the start of the pandemic,” Professor Mehmet Ceyhan, head of the department of pediatric infectious diseases at Hacettepe University Faculty of Medicine in Ankara, said on Thursday. He added: “We had to reopen the COVID-19 pediatric ward due to the increasing number of cases.”

speaking to Cumhuriyet on July 25, Professor Dr. Bekir Kocazeybek, a member of the Department of Clinical Microbiology at Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine in Istanbul, explained why the number of cases is increasing: “Cases are increasing due to the abolition of masks by the Ministry of Health in Inland Areas, and the fact that testing is almost never done – infected people are sent back untested. The government is driven by economic concerns.

Kocazeybek noted that Omicron is the dominant variant in Turkey, with 70-80% of cases, warning that vaccines are losing their effectiveness and calling for public health measures: “Turkey should act with an approach that prioritizes human health rather than tourism and economic concerns. Otherwise, we risk going through the fall and winter more seriously with a 6th wave… My biggest worry is that we will encounter more resistant and more contagious mutations. We must reduce the chain of infection by disciplining human movements.

Healthcare worker organizations in Ankara recently issued a statement on the pandemic, calling for various precautions against the spread of the virus. They demanded that “COVID wards and polyclinics be reopened in hospitals. The use of masks should continue in indoor venues and crowded open spaces. … Effective contact tracing and isolation must be implemented.

They added: “Vaccination should be accelerated through campaigns and booster doses should be given with effective vaccines. The age group of 5 to 11 years should be included in the vaccination program. Urgent precautionary plans must be put into practice.

Continuing, they warned: “While a new variant of the COVID-19 pandemic spreads very rapidly, every six months, faster and more easily transmitted than the previous one, all measures have been lifted in our country since the month of May. The Ministry of Health started publishing daily data on a weekly basis after May 30, and although the number of tests is currently very low, the number of weekly deaths is very high. »

It concluded with a call for public health measures against the government’s “profit before health” policy: “We reaffirm that the government, which determines the criteria for the fight against the pandemic according to the occupancy rate of hospitals, the level of production of factories and income from tourism, should give priority to public health.

As a result of this policy of death, intensive care units in hospitals are filling up again. Professor Oktay Demirkıran, president of the Turkish Intensive Care Association, told NTV television: “80-90% occupancy has been reached in some places” and that there is no more room. at Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine Hospital, one of the main hospitals in Istanbul.

Demirkıran also said on Tuesday that “the density of cases in Istanbul continues. Last week some of our patients had to stay in the emergency room for a week due to the intensity and could not be admitted to the intensive care units.

In an interview with the Mesopatamia agency on August 7, Güçlü Yaman, a member of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Pandemic Task Force, summed up the horrifying situation of the pandemic: official deaths from COVID-19, while this rate has been multiplied by ten this year.

He continued: “There is also an increase in official deaths, but this is well below the actual deaths. In a sense, we are back in the summer of 2020. … If you recall, the Minister of Health said in his statement after the summer of 2020 that he was hiding data in order to “protect national interests”. According to Yaman’s calculations, by August 2, Turkey’s excess death toll had risen to 294,000, although the official death toll was still below 100,000.

Under these conditions, threats against scientists by pandemic deniers and anti-vaxxers are on the rise. In fact, the suicide of Dr. Lisa-Maria Kellermayr in Austria, after being targeted by anti-vaxxers and the Austrian government ignoring the threats, reveals that this is an international campaign supported by the ruling class.

In Turkey, Professor Esin Davutoglu Şenol and other scientists who have criticized the government’s unscientific policies and called for public health measures since the start of the pandemic are increasingly targeted by anti-vaxxers. The government’s indifference to these threats reflects the fact that in Turkey, as in Austria and most countries, authorities have embraced the far-right policies of Holocaust deniers and anti-vaccines.

As the World Socialist Website has consistently explained, it is clear what global public health measures are needed to stop the pandemic and save lives. The Zero-COVID strategy implemented in China is the only way to end the pandemic in the world. Only a mass mobilization of the international working class, based on a scientific program, can change the killing policy of the ruling class adopted by the entire political establishment and the trade union apparatus.

Workers must demand and fight for non-essential workplaces and schools to be closed until zero cases are reached, along with mass vaccination, widespread testing, contact tracing and isolation of infected persons and other public health measures. There must be full income support for all workers and small businesses affected by these measures.

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