Turkey on Saturday reported 918 new COVID-19 cases as daily infections fell for the seventh day in a row. With the latest figures, Turkey's total caseload rose to 218,717. The coronavirus death toll reached 5,475 with 17 new fatalities over the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, 1,179 more patients have successfully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total to 201,013.
According to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, the five provinces with the largest number of new cases over the last three days from most to least have been: Istanbul, Ankara, Gaziantep, Konya and Diyarbakır. Meanwhile, Artvin, Tunceli, Bayburt, Kırklareli and Bartın have reported the fewest new infections over the same period.
With the latest figures, Turkey appears to be stabilizing the pandemic after a struggle with rising cases plaguing its normalization process, which went into full swing last month.
Increasing caseloads have been linked to the public failing to comply with new rules including wearing masks and maintaining a social distance. Though Turkey eased a string of restrictions, from weekend curfews to inter-city travel, mask requirement and social distancing rules remain in place. Security forces routinely conduct inspections in crowded areas and mete out warnings to those without masks, sometimes imposing fines.
Associate professor Sema Turan, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Science Board, warns that a second wave of the pandemic could be experienced in Turkey, as well as around the world at large.
“September and October are two months we will likely see a second wave due to changes in the human body’s resistance to viruses, an increase in crowds in enclosed spaces and more people spending time indoors in those months,” she told Demirören News Agency (DHA).
Turan says a second wave, or new surge, is common during such outbreaks. “We should not be deceived by a decline in new cases. The human body is more resistant to viruses in the summer, but cases are not over yet. We ought not to drop our guard. Our Science Board repeatedly warns people to follow the rules, and the public should not think that we are exaggerating,” she said, adding that Turkey’s health care workers were working hard for each patient’s recovery and cautioning the public to pay attention to measures.
“Our health system will do everything it can against the pandemic, but people should be careful too. If you follow the rules to a T, cases will decrease and we can be rid of the pandemic – maybe in a mater of months.”
Turan also warned about the upcoming Qurban Bayram, the Muslim holiday more commonly known outside Turkey as Eid al-Adha.
“This is a time of great people movement where many feel obliged to gather together to celebrate. We want them to wear masks all the time in place of gatherings and avoid congratulatory handshakes. We advise people to exchange greetings by phone if possible,” she said.
A world without scent
Turan further held up the example of Uğur Duman, a 44-year-old surgeon from the northwestern city of Bursa, as an example of what those who catch – and recover from – the virus can expect. Despite it being two months since he recovered, Duman stated: “I have no ability to smell almost any scent.”
Duman was diagnosed with the coronavirus in April. Symptoms vary among patients, yet for him, it started with a slight cough.
“I wouldn’t care about such a cough if there wasn't an outbreak in Turkey, but I had a heart condition as well. So, I shared my concern with colleagues, and they ran tests on me."
"Imaging showed symptoms in my lungs, and I was diagnosed with the coronavirus,” he recounted to Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday.
Luckily, Duman's symptoms were less severe, and the doctor was placed in self-isolation at home. After a five-day treatment and 14 days of quarantine, he fully recovered and is now back to work.
“I felt immense solitude. This is what bothered me most while I was ill. I was lonely, away from my loved ones,” he recounted.
However, the most significant impact of the virus has been his subsequent loss of smell.
“I woke up one morning and could not smell anything. It has slightly recovered, but I still cannot make out most scents. I can’t smell food, I can’t smell flowers,” he complained.
Duman said the virus can spread rapidly and thus advised fellow citizens to “minimize contact” with each other and comply with personal protective measures, adding: “The Health Ministry has guidelines in place. Surely, as a society, we cannot abandon old habits, like gatherings for social events – but we have to follow rules while doing them.”
“Wearing masks is of the utmost importance. It might seem like a simple measure, but it really provides protection. No one should feel confident that he or she can not be infected, no matter how young or healthy they are. Some can recover with slight symptoms while others of the same age and health can be confined to intensive care,” he warned.
“We still do not know how damaging the coronavirus will be for the body in the long-run. So, it is best to take measures until we know more about coronavirus and can take it under control,” he added.