Turkey’s health minister on Wednesday refuted allegations in a recent New York Times article on the death toll in Istanbul from the novel coronavirus.      

Speaking at a news conference following a Coronavirus Science Board meeting, Fahrettin Koca said the newspaper’s claim that Turkey is hiding the number of deaths from the coronavirus is “fiction solely based on anti-Turkey bias.” 

“We have given all the information transparently to the World Health Organization, as it wants, and we continue to do so,” Koca added. 

The New York Times article claimed that compared to the last two years, there has been a significant increase in the number of deaths in Istanbul and that Turkey has been underreporting the city’s death toll from the coronavirus. 

It alleged that according to data compiled from public records of deaths in Istanbul, there have been some 2,100 more deaths in March and April 2020 compared to data from the last two years. 

Koca said people who were supposed to be buried in their respective hometowns had to be buried in Istanbul as a precaution amid the coronavirus pandemic, and as a result, the numbers at some of the city’s cemeteries are higher than usual. 

He emphasized that the main focus should be the overall death toll for Turkey and not just in one city.

Turkey has recorded more than 98,600 coronavirus cases with the death toll at 2,376.

Since first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the virus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 185 countries and regions, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US.

More than 2.62 million cases have been confirmed worldwide and nearly 183,000 deaths with over 709,000 recoveries.

Read more: Turkey refutes NYT article on Istanbul COVID-19 deaths