Claim: Istanbul’s Death Number Implies Turkey Hides Real Fatality Numbers

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Claim: Istanbul’s Death Number Implies Turkey Hides Real Fatality Numbers

2020-04-23 01:05 BST
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New York Times article penned by Carlotta Gall alleges that Turkey’s Covid-19 death toll is higher than announced because 2100 more people died in Istanbul compared to last year although the increase in death numbers is even less than yearly average

Istanbul's famous Galata Bridge nearly empty during Turkey’s weekend lockdown on Sunday, April 19.

On 20 April 2020, New York Times published an article penned by Carlotta Gall, claiming that Turkey might be hindering the death toll in Istanbul due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The piece bases this claim on the increase in the number of deaths recorded in Istanbul compared to the last year. The piece invokes that 2100 more deaths recorded in Istanbul between March and April compared to the last year, therefore this implies some of them actually passed away because of the coronavirus.

First of all, the piece does not provide any data regarding how many deaths within this number can ever be attributed to coronavirus, whether the death record stated pneumonia, seasonal flu or any other reason which implied that these people could have actually passed away because of the coronavirus or it was a stroke, cancer or even an unnatural reason of death like murder and accident.

Secondly, Istanbul is under lockdown since April 4, which means that entry and exit are prohibited in the province like 30 other metropolitan areas in Turkey. This ban also includes the movement of corpses for funerals. Therefore, people had to bury their deaths in Istanbul to the Covid-19 restrictions unlike other years. This should have a massive impact of the death records in Istanbul as 84.2% of Istanbul’s population was born outside the city, as Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca stated that this fact contrivuted to the increase of records in Istanbul.

Thirdly, Turkey’s and Istanbul’s population steadily grow each year, so the death numbers. Since last five years, number of deaths in Turkey has been increasing 2.88% each year on average during the period between January and April, which was the base of the article’s claim.  In 2019, 152.289 people passed away in Turkey. Accordingly, 156.684 people would have died already by now. Instead, the total death number in Turkey is 153.766 since January 2020, meaning 2918 less deaths occurred than expected.

In conclusion, New York Times article makes a claim based on some numbers, but those numbers does not mean anything for supporting the claim.