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With rising cases, is Turkey hiding its coronavirus numbers?

With rising cases, is Turkey hiding its coronavirus numbers?

Turkey emerges as newest hotspot in the coronavirus battle as it has overtaken both China, from where the cases first emerged, and also Iran, which became the next epicentre, in the number of infections.

The latest figures, according to Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, are 95,591 infections, with 2,259 fatalities. A total of 10,453 patients have recovered since the outbreak of the virus in the country in mid-March.

However, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/world/middleeast/coronavirus-turkey-deaths.html"><strong>a New York Times report</strong> </a>says that Turkey is hiding the actual figures as the number of average deaths in Istanbul this year between March and April have been far higher than the previous two years. It says the government was curbing information by reprimanding doctors who spoke out on social media and separately detained hundreds of people to prevent leaks.

The report says that the government headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was busy running a propaganda campaign to hide problems due to a faltering economy and high unemployment.

Another report in <em>The Wire</em> says that <a href="https://thewire.in/world/turkey-erdoganon-media-coronavirus-crisis"><strong>fear is mounting among journalists</strong> </a>in Turkey as Erdogan had reportedly called them viruses. Investigation was launched against journalist Nurcan Baysal after she criticized the shortage of protective masks on Twitter.

This March, journalists Idris Ozyol and Ebru Kucukaydin were detained and an injunction sought against Mustafa Ozdemir, the editor-in-chief of local newspaper <em>Halkin Sesi</em>. The editor-in-chief of another local newspaper, Ismet Cigit, was arrested in the middle of the night over reports critical of the government.

In a bid to halt the spread of cases in its prisons, Turkey's Parliament passed a law to release tens of thousands of prisoners. About 45,000 prisoners will be temporarily released under judicial control till the end of May, while another batch of some 45,000 prisoners will be released permanently. Turkish prisons have reported 17 cases of infections and three deaths.

The country is still constructing two 1,008-bedded hospitals specially for coronavirus patients. Erdogan inspected the under-construction hospitals in Istanbul this Saturday. The country has been witnessing fast growth in new infections since it reported the first case on March 11. (With agency inputs).