The latest statistics from the Health Ministry showed 226,532 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the week between July 11 and July 17, while another 96 people died. Figures released late Wednesday indicate a further surge in the pandemic, which had largely faded in the spring.
Between July 4 and July 10, more than 117,000 people tested positive and 31 people died.
Turkey staved off the worst of the pandemic in the past few months after grappling with new highs in the number of daily cases. Experts tie the decline in coronavirus cases to the less severe omicron strain, which contributed to a drop in hospitalizations. A vaccination drive, which began in January 2021, also played a major role in decreasing the prevalence of the cases.
In light of positive developments, Turkey gradually eased restrictions related to the pandemic. Currently, none of the previous tight restrictions, from social distancing to mandatory polymerase chain reaction tests (PCR), exist, while hospitals are the only venues where the public is required to wear protective masks.
Still, experts warn that the risk lingers for people with chronic illnesses and elderly citizens, advising them to take self-protection measures, including wearing protective masks. Health authorities earlier announced that most hospitalizations and fatalities were among senior citizens and people suffering from other diseases.
Since the first case was reported on March 11, 2020, more than 15.5 million people, slightly less than the population of the country’s most crowded city Istanbul, tested positive for the coronavirus. Nearly 100,000 people died of the infection.
Turkey commenced a nationwide vaccination drive in January 2021. It reached nearly 150 million doses. More than 53 million people now have their two doses of the vaccine, while another 27.8 million people were inoculated with third doses of the vaccines of China’s Sinovac or Pfizer-BioNTech’s Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. Osmaniye in the south and Ordu in the north are two provinces with the highest rate of vaccination, while Şanlıurfa and Batman in the east have the lowest rate.
Professor Tevfik Özlü, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, told Demirören News Agency (DHA) that people at risk groups (senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses) need to be cautious, while others should proceed with caution when they are in crowded environments, such as public transportation vehicles and elevators. “It is certainly a risk to be in such an environment without protective masks,” he said on Thursday. Like Minister Fahrettin Koca said earlier this week, Özlü said there was no need for a full lockdown. “We don’t have to return to that chaotic atmosphere back in 2020 and in 2021,” he said.
Özlü pointed out that people acquired immunity against the virus. “But we should consider it like the flu. Just because you had the flu once, it does not mean you won’t have it again,” he said. “The immunity does not protect from falling ill but it still gives you a chance to be spared from a severe form (of the infection),” he added.