Turkey’s strategy of prioritising contact tracing is carried out by some 6,000 healthcare professionals who work around the clock to identify and follow up with people who have had contact with COVID-19-positive patients, Singaporean network Channel News Asia reported.
Doctors, in 1,200 units of two to four in Istanbul alone, visit homes in full protective gear and collect samples from suspected persons, and the tested contacts receive their results the next day.
Turkey’s death toll “seems relatively low given the number of infections,” CNA said, “even if some observers have questioned the reliability of official figures.
According to data released by the Health Ministry on Monday, Turkey has seen a total of 3,841 deaths among 139,771 diagnosed cases, discovered through more than 1.4 million tests since the virus was first seen in the country on March 10. A total of 95,780 people have recovered to date.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca had on April 17 tied Turkey’s success in fighting the pandemic to early treatment and strict filiation, the term government officials use for contact tracing.
By April 29, some 460,000 people had been contacted by filiation teams, according to the minister.
Turkey’s strategy has included follow ups with people identified through tracing and referring them to hospitals as soon as they start showing symptoms, Koca said, delaying the onset of pneumonia in many cases and further lowering the need for intubation.
Healthcare units do “real detective work,” CNA quoted Melek Nur Aslan, director of the public health office in Istanbul’s conservative Fatih district.
According to Aslan, all newly-identified COVID-19 patients are required to give a complete history of who they have come into contact with, starting 48 hours before they started to show symptoms until they received their positive diagnosis.
People on the list propagated from the patients’ answers are then notified and asked to self-isolate for 14 days, during which time they are monitored and tested if they show symptoms.
The process repeats for any patients discovered through filiation, doctor Mustafa Sever told the CNA.
According to Minister Koca, each tracing process identifies 4.5 contacts on average.
Only the healthcare units in charge of the tracking have access to the tracing data, Aslan told the CNA. Turkey has used the filiation method for measles outbreaks in the past, Dr Sever was quoted by the CNA as saying.
The visits to possible contacts include the units informing people of how to avoid infecting others and how to protect themselves for the future in case they test negative.
They also provide reassurance. “If they are worried, we speak a little with them,” Dr Sever said, “When we go to people’s homes, they see that someone is taking care of them, that they are not neglected.”