Gripped by a rising tide of cases and deaths since March, Turkey may finally be seeing a recession in COVID-19 numbers, experts say. The situation looks likely to improve in the next two weeks and the number of new cases will drop below 100 in July, according to members of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Science Board.
Daily coronavirus infections dropped for the fifth straight day across the country as the total cases exceeded 165,000.
The Health Ministry said Tuesday 786 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the caseload to 165,555. Meanwhile, 22 more people died from the virus as the total death toll hit 4,585. The number of recovered patients increased by 974 with the number of recoveries reaching just below 130,000.
Professor Hasan Tezer, a member of the Coronavirus Science Board, says they expect the number of daily cases to drop below 100 in mid-July. “The duration of the pandemic is based on every country’s internal dynamics. The controlled normalization process will be determined by the number of cases. Generally speaking, projections show pandemics can continue for one or two years,” he said. Tezer pointed out that these projections were based on the level of public compliance with the required measures. Noting that swine flu, which emerged in 2009 was still active, Tezer said COVID-19 may exist for years to come but would become a reduced seasonal virus. “I personally believe that it will lose its pandemic quality by mid-2021,” he added.
Tezer says Turkey saw the benefits of curfews and lockdowns. “So far, things have gone smoothly and figures are as expected. The current number of cases is what we predicted earlier. The number of intubated patients and those in intensive care have dramatically decreased. The number of recoveries is high and we have fewer active cases. We have to maintain this stable situation. We are now in the second stage (of normalization), and the next 10 days will allow us to evaluate if people have followed the rules to lower infections,” he said.
Complying with rules, like wearing protective face masks, adhering to social distancing and personal hygiene will lead a drop below 500 cases daily in the next 20 days and a further 100 and below in the following 15 days, Tezer says. “It is up to the public. People should see themselves as already infected and should see others as infected as well, while keeping their distance and taking protective measures,” he warned. Tezer is still cautious and warns that COVID-19 is a winter virus and may emerge again in winter: “But if we comply with rules this summer, we may see fewer cases in winter.” Tezer points out to other viruses that emerge during winter were a cause for concern and that influenza and other diseases could fuel a reemergence of the coronavirus. “It is always possible to see a new wave of infection as long as the virus exists anywhere in the world."
Professor Ateş Kara, another member of the Coronavirus Science Board, echoed Tezer’s remarks about a downward trend in cases. Speaking to CNN Türk, he said he expected “a significant improvement” by June 15. “Turkey has succeeded in implementing measures and administering drugs to coronavirus patients. Certainly, we have losses, but we are far better off than other countries. If we comply with rules, cases may drop to zero in August,” he says.
Social distancing is key in order to prevent new cases. Professor Recep Tekin, an infectious disease expert at Dicle University in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, says mass gatherings in the southeastern and eastern regions had aggravated virus cases. He points to wedding parties and house visits to wish condolences to family members who have recently been bereaved as particularly unfortunate examples. “People think normalization means going back to their lives before the pandemic,” he told Demirören News Agency (DHA). Tekin says that despite the ban on mass gatherings, the number of cases had increased in several eastern provinces, including Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Adıyaman, Mardin, Şırnak, Batman and Elazığ. Lately, 37 people were infected when they attended a dinner with a coronavirus patient in Diyarbakır.
“Turkey saw an improvement in terms of the number of cases in April and May thanks to the measures, but once the normalization process came back onto the country’s agenda, we saw a rise in the number of cases. People mistake normalization with resuming their lives without any measures. They think they can stop wearing masks and adhering to social distancing. They think they can all meet up again,” he said. “But this is the new normal, which is, continuing wearing masks, keeping our distance with others and adhering to hygiene rules,” he says.