Return to schools sees fewer COVID-19 cases - health minister

Children returning to the classroom has resulted in fewer COVID-19 cases than remote teaching, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Friday.

Since Sept. 21, growing numbers of children have gone back to school as the government begins a phased reopening of the education system.

The scheme had been a success Koca said, with no increase in the number of COVID-19 cases since schools reopened.

“We see a fall in cases in classes that have reopened compared to those that haven't,” he said.

The Health Ministry has faced criticism after it was revealed to not be including all COVID-19 infections in its official statistics.

Instead, only those counted as patients have been included in data released since July.

“Not all cases are patients because there are those who show no symptoms at all even though their tests come back positive. These create the vast majority,” Koca said last month.

The move was strongly condemned by the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), which accused the government of failing to report over 350,000 COVID-19 infections. 

The Health Ministry appeared to back down on Sunday, saying that it would provide a complete breakdown of cases from Oct. 15.

But figures released Thursday again used the term “patients” and indicated 1,693 new cases recorded over the last 24 hours, a number only 22 higher than the previous day.

Koca later said his comments had been misunderstood and that the ministry would share the total number of infections with the World Health Organisation (WHO) alone.

Friday’s numbers were announced as 1,812 new patients with 117,005 tests administered.

Friday also added 73 people to Turkey’s toll, bringing the total to 9,153.

Turkey's COVID-19 figures for Oct. 16. source: https://covid19.saglik.gov.tr/