The number of coronavirus cases in Turkey climbs almost daily, but an infectious diseases expert points to a new dire reality: an increasing number of children among COVID-19 patients. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has already brought attention to the fact that people under the age of 30 made up more than half of the total COVID-19 cases in Turkey, but associate professor Ümit Savaşçı of Health Sciences University says the rise is evident among children “who have been confined to their homes for almost two years,” referring to the pandemic-related restrictions for children that were lifted only this summer.
“They have no Vitamin D intake, they are sedentary and their immunity system is naturally suppressed. Add this to them mingling with other children at school without precautions, they can easily be infected. Unfortunately, we have seen children ending up in intensive care in this period. Patients below the age of 20 and with underlying diseases find themselves in intensive care within a few days of infection,” he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) Sunday.
Vaccination is among the few options against infection, along with compliance with mask and social distancing rules. The country’s vaccination program is open to people at the age of 15 and above and younger people with chronic diseases. Savaşçı says the biggest responsibility lies within families, though. “They have to have their proper doses of vaccines to protect their children,” he warned.
Turkey administered more than 112 million doses since launching ts vaccination program in January, with health care workers and the elderly being vaccinated first. More than 46 million people have so far received two doses of vaccine, a prerequisite to achieving mass immunity in the country.
Although the vaccination rate is boosted, the pandemic evolved into a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” according to experts. Authorities acknowledge that unvaccinated people constitute the majority of severe cases in the country where fatalities from the coronavirus rarely drop below 200 nowadays. The delta variant, a more severe strain of the virus, is also contributing to the surge in the pandemic, especially among those ditching mandatory mask and social distancing rules after Turkey eased pandemic-related restrictions this summer.
The latest figures shared by the Health Ministry for the period between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1 show that the country still has provinces with more than 400 cases per 100,000 people. Zonguldak in the north had the highest weekly number – 557 per 100,000 – and it was followed by other northern provinces Düzce, Sakarya and Kastamonu. The sharpest increase in the number of weekly cases was respectively in Bursa and Balıkesir, which are two neighboring provinces in the west, and in Uşak, Kırklareli, Sakarya, Ardahan, Edirne, Mersin, Denizli and Samsun.
“You have to be more careful now if you are in one of those provinces,” Minister Koca warned in a social media post on Saturday.