ISTANBUL – Turkey’s new coronavirus cases jumped above 1,000 for the first time in three weeks on Tuesday in what the government called a troubling rise during peak holiday season, raising concerns among top doctors about insufficient testing.
Ankara, which lifted a partial lockdown in June and has lobbied hard for countries to allow tourists to visit, has called 1,000 a critical threshold to possibly reconsider rules.
The 1,083 new COVID-19 cases reflect a “severe” rise after a four-day holiday weekend, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca wrote on Twitter, urging Turks to avoid contact and prevent vacations from having grave consequences.
The virus has killed 5,765 and infected 234,934 in the country, putting it seventeenth globally based on total cases, according to a Reuters tally. New cases had hovered just below 1,000 since July 13.
The government has not publicly disclosed the number of critical care or intubated patients since July 29, raising questions among some experts even while more than 40,000 tests have been logged daily.
Bulent Yilmaz, general secretary of the Turkish Medical Association, said people at risk were missing out on tests – even while mandatory testing was up for those in public offices, professional athletes and for people departing at airports.
“Most of the tests are done to those who need routine tests. It seems that those who are in real trouble and risk groups are not sufficiently tested,” Yilmaz told Reuters.
Images of vacationing crowds without masks and ignoring social distancing were troubling, he added.
“The images from the beaches are grim, but you cannot really blame people for it,” Yilmaz said. “The government needs to show the situation is serious so that people can take it seriously, too.”
Germany, Turkey’s second biggest source of tourists, lifted on Tuesday a travel warning on four Turkish seaside provinces with low infection rates to help revive tourism.