ANKARA (Reuters) – Surging coronavirus cases in Ankara are stretching hospitals to the limit and Turkish authorities need to impose a fresh lockdown to bring the virus under control, doctors in the Turkish capital say.
The city is now the epicenter of Turkey’s COVID-19 outbreak, the government announced this week, and although authorities say there is no plan for a lockdown as yet officials privately say new measures may be needed soon.
"Ankara has become Wuhan,” said geriatrics professor Mustafa Cankurtaran at Ankara’s Hacettepe medical faculty, referring to the Chinese city where the new coronavirus first emerged.
"A 10-14 day lockdown should be imposed. Health capacity may be exceeded,” he tweeted on Wednesday, urging the government to open all medical centers, including private health units.
Two officials told Reuters the number of cases in Ankara was rising faster than anticipated and current measures including mask-wearing and social distancing were not having the results they anticipated.
"The daily positive cases are high enough to cause discomfort now, and everyone has started seeing daily new cases in their close circles,” said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"If new measures are not taken, it appears it will be more difficult to prevent new problems,” the official added, saying some "city-based” steps could be taken.
Health minister Fahrettin Koca, describing a "second peak” in COVID-19 cases in Turkey, said the number of active cases in Ankara this week were twice the number in Istanbul - whose population is three times the size of the capital.
Ankara governor Vasip Sahin told reporters on Friday that he hoped the rising trend in the number of cases would not require stricter measures such as curfew.
Fatalities across the country have jumped to their highest since mid-May, when lockdowns were in place, with 49 deaths reported on Thursday.
At the weekend, the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara accused the government of playing down the scale of the pandemic, citing local information.