Turkey Plans Half a Million Antibody Tests to Fight Outbreak

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(Bloomberg) --

Turkey plans to conduct over half a million coronavirus antibody tests to help monitor and contain the spread of the outbreak, according to an official familiar with the matter.

The nation’s state-run statistics agency has randomly selected 150,000 households -- or about one in every 165 -- for the tests, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The one-month program begins in two weeks and will improve data on who has already been exposed, said Ates Kara, a member of Turkey’s Science Board, which advises the government on coronavirus measures.

Figuring out what percentage of the population may have been infected by the virus is critical in determining how soon governments can reopen their economies without causing a spike in cases.

While some studies suggest the number of infections might be far bigger than official numbers, critics say these results may be skewed by poor sampling.

Earlier this week, Turkey lifted a ban on entries and exits from seven provinces and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outlined plans to ease social distancing measures over the coming months.

As of Thursday, Turkey had reported 133,721 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,641 fatalities. Officials at Turkey’s Health Ministry and the Turkish Statistical Institute declined to comment.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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