Woke up thinking about Covid-19 as my trip to the London Book Fair had been cancelled due to the virus. I’d been checking the World Health Organisation (WHO) information, curious about the spread of the epidemic and was wondering this morning about Turkey, particularly thinking of all the Syrian refugees at the border, and how vulnerable they would be.
Something odd here. Zero cases of Covid-19 in Turkey on the WHO map. And in Iran, which shares a border with Turkey, there are 6566 confirmed cases. Is it a mistake? Time to get some online info. First link I click on is the Daily Sabah, the Turkish pro-government daily newspaper owned by a friend of President Erdoğan, founded in 2014. What did the Daily Sabah say? That, yes, Turkey was ahead of the game keeping the virus out. They had installed thermal screenings at Istanbul airport and were quarantining people coming from Iran, in particular from Qom or Mashhad; used special disinfectant and sanitising on all public transport and in schools etc (vocational schools producing 100 tons of disinfectants for daily supplies.) In early February they launched a Covid-19 test kit which Turkey had developed “with all-local means and resources, the kits give results in 90 to 120 minutes.” and they added that according to the ministry, “the testing kit has an accuracy rate of 99.6%.” Here's a question: how did Turkish scientists get their hands on the Covid-19 virus to develop a test kit to recognise it — when by the virus is not in the country? Did they smuggle in a sample of Covid-19?
Can this be true? Does Turkey have zero cases despite being a trade partner with Iran which has 6566 cases? Is it statistically possible? Or is the Daily Sabah simply an effective way for President Erdoğan to control the propaganda and thus the Turkish people? Another Turkish daily, the Hürriyet Daily News, seems to be in agreement regarding zero cases. Seems to me the propaganda patient zero is the Ministry of Health.
Off to trusty Twitter to find out more. Some viral tweeters may have slipped under Erdoğan’s radar. Yes, I’m not the only one who is thinking this way. A man called Can Okar (@canokar) has noticed how weird it is that Turkey has not had the virus get across its border “we’ve reached the point where we can say it is a statistical impossibility that Turkey does not have a single case of coronavirus. We’ve all been privately talking/joking about it but it’s probably time to really discuss what is happening here.” and he tweets following the death of the first Turkish person in France on March 6th:
@RencapMan adds to the thread with a sharp observation: “I can think of billions of (tourism dollars) reasons why Turkey might not have recorded a #coronavirus case - about 3% of GDP in fact.” Concerned now that information is not what it seems, I check out other nation's details of reporting of Covid-19. Hmmm. Turns out the Russian Federation, a country of 147 million people, has seven confirmed cases. Seven! Something dodgy going on, folks.
Meanwhile in the Guardian Ai Weiwei writes about the epidemic in Wuhan, where it started: "Police have welded doors shut in order to monitor who enters and leaves buildings. Roads out of the city are cut with deep trenches or blocked by walls. Even little paths that lead towards farmland have been destroyed. Swim down a river? There are nets to catch you."
Give me the freedom of Italy any day over the autocratic states of Turkey, Russia and China, Corona or no Corona.
© Alison Hackett posted 9 March 2020
Information from the WHO map was sourced here