Turkey announces asymptomatic coronavirus case numbers for first time since July

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective masks stroll in Eminonu district, amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey November 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey recorded 28,351 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 6,814 with symptoms, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday, the first time since July Ankara has included asymptomatic cases in the total.

The total was by far the highest reported by the government since the outbreak began. The previous daily high, which only included symptomatic cases, was 7,381, recorded on Tuesday.

Ankara had only been reporting symptomatic cases since the summer, which critics said masked the true scale of the outbreak.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Koca unexpectedly said Ankara would begin announcing the total numbers.

"In line with requests from our people, we plan on including positive cases that do not show symptoms in the daily table," he said, adding that around 80% of people who test positive were asymptomatic or lightly symptomatic.

Health Ministry data on Wednesday showed 168 people had died due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the most since the beginning of the outbreak, raising the death toll to 12,840.

Symptomatic patients totaled 467,730 as of Wednesday, data at the ministry's website showed. While the case total was not announced, Koca said it would be included in the table in coming days.

Separately, he said Turkey had signed a contract to buy 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

"The important thing here for us to start using vaccines which are known to be effective and reliable. ... I think the vaccination calendar could start on Dec. 11," Koca said.

Sinovac's experimental COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac triggered a quick immune response, but the level of antibodies produced was lower than in people who had recovered, preliminary trial results showed.

(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Catherine Evans and Richard Chang)

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