As Turkey sees another peak in the first wave of coronavirus cases, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca assuaged concerns but urged strict adherence to the rules. Koca said at a news conference Friday that nationwide measures and regular inspections to ensure compliance with these rules helped Turkey bring the “speed of the outbreak” under control in the last week. He stressed, however, that "this should never, ever lead us to end the vigilance."
“We have been fighting the coronavirus pandemic for six months now. The obvious drop in cases during times of full compliance with rules was unfortunately not sustainable. Neglecting the disease, not obeying rules of hygiene, masks and social distancing, drove us to an undesired stage in the outbreak,” Koca lamented.
The minister was speaking in the northern province of Samsun, the latest stopover on his weekly tours across the country to see the impact of the pandemic firsthand. “Samsun is a growing, developing province, and in parallel with this growth, its need for health care grows,” Koca told reporters.
Turkey on Thursday reported 1,721 new COVID-19 cases and 74 deaths from the previous 24 hours. The new cases were found in more than 110,000 coronavirus tests, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 309,790, according to the Health Ministry. With Thursday’s fatalities, the death toll from COVID-19 since the outbreak began in Turkey has increased to 7,785. Meanwhile, the total number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 increased to 271,964, with 1,241 patients declared free of the coronavirus in the past day.
Koca said Friday that the number of patients and deaths started rising again and this was the case around the globe as well. But he added that although rises were evident in some provinces, others managed to bring the outbreak under control thanks to tight measures and “sensible citizens.”
After bringing the speed of the outbreak under control, Turkey expects the number of patients to drop further within the next 10 days, Koca emphasized. “We aim to reduce the number of patients with measures and relieve the burden (the outbreak) has placed on our hospitals,” he said.
The minister noted that the average time of reaching out to those who were in contact with a positive patient has decreased to 13 hours. “We will succeed the earlier we isolate the contacts of positive patients. Turkey is among the best countries in the world in contact tracing,” the minister said.
After going through the worst of the outbreak and managing to lower the number of daily cases below 1,000, Turkey has been witnessing a resurgence in new infections.
In an effort to halt the steadily rising infection rates, the government introduced several measures, making wearing masks outside mandatory across all provinces and running mass transit at a reduced capacity.
The Ministry of National Education also scrapped its plans to fully reopen schools, opting for a partial opening with only kindergarteners and first-graders going back to the classrooms, while the rest will continue their education online.
Warning over flu vaccine
As Turkey runs phase three trials of a coronavirus vaccine from China, it is also in the process of developing its own. Authorities said a Turkish-made vaccine will be available by next year.
In the meantime, people are flocking to clinics for flu and pneumonia vaccines. Associate professor Afşin Emre Kayıpmaz, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, says those vaccines would not provide protection against the type of pneumonia that COVID-19 causes. Speaking to Ihlas News Agency (IHA) on Friday, Kayıpmaz said people had the false belief that this vaccination would protect them, but he warned that the pneumonia vaccine can only protect from pneumonia caused by an entirely different microorganism.
“We see crowds at neighborhood clinics, people lining up for vaccines, but those vaccines are only good for the illnesses they are specifically created for,” he said. Kayıpmaz said that those who should be injected with those vaccines are only the people in the high-risk groups, noting that the advisory board is preparing a guideline on these cases.
“People who should be prioritized in those vaccines are people with chronic illnesses like heart and lung diseases, people who received transplants, etc.,” he said.
On pneumonia affecting COVID-19 patients, Kayıpmaz said they have seen a drop in pneumonia development in patients but this was the case only for people who started the treatment early. “Pneumonia rate in coronavirus patients decreased below 7%. This is thanks to early diagnosis. Turkey has very good resources for successful early diagnosis,” he said.
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