Turkey has achieved relative success in gaining control of the coronavirus pandemic, decreasing daily fatalities and stymieing the rate of new infections. Irshad Ali Shaikh, interim director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Turkey office, said the country's accomplishments have contributed to the idea of setting up a regional office for the international health body in Istanbul. Shaikh also hailed Turkey’s efforts in developing a vaccine.
“Turkey is using the latest technology in vaccine studies and working on best practices. Eleven different studies are being conducted, and (some are at the) stage of animal trials. It is an extraordinary success (in such a short time). We hope that the vaccine will be found in the first quarter of 2021. There are studies worldwide that have been moved to the third stage in vaccine development. There are six products at this stage in the U.S., Australia, Brazil and China. It normally takes two to three years to produce a vaccine, but we did this between three to six months in the COVID-19 process. We are very hopeful about finding the vaccine. With a 98% effective vaccine, it will take two to three years for the globe to contain the virus. In the case of COVID-19, even a 50% effective vaccine will be acceptable and a good start,” Shaikh said.
So far, two potential vaccines developed by Turkish scientists locally wrapped up animal trials and will soon conduct human trials, according to authorities. COVID-19 Turkey Platform, endorsed by the government and set up in the first days of the outbreak in the country, works on drugs and vaccines in 18 different projects by scientists from Turkish universities and the private sector.
Turkey's top scientific body, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK), has invested TL 2.3 billion ($300 million) in the development of 16 vaccines and other medicine projects over the past five years. The group's anti-coronavirus projects which are coordinated through the platform include 225 researchers from 25 universities, eight public research bodies and eight private firms.
Shaikh also praised Turkey’s success in tests. “We are seeing more than 50,000 tests daily, and the rate of those found positive in the daily tests is only 2%. This tells us that the virus circulation in the population is low. We must use masks, maintain social distance and wash our hands and practice hygiene to keep the virus low and eliminate it as soon as possible,” he said. “The virus awaits an opportunity to find a weakness within us and to bring back a full-fledged epidemic. So although we have done a great job, maybe we should be more careful and follow these rules,” he added.
The infection rate from the coronavirus in Turkey has increased by 1.3 times since May, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Sunday. This rate indicates how many people on average an infected person infects. The lower the rate, the slower the spread of the virus. The greatest increase was seen in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, which rose 1.7 times. In the capital Ankara, the rate rose by 1.6 times, and in southeastern Diyarbakır and Gaziantep, it rose by 1.4 times and 1.3 times, respectively, Koca said on Twitter. Koca said the results confirm the importance of wearing masks, maintaining social distance and practicing proper hygiene.
"Turkey reached the highest daily test numbers with 63,842 tests yesterday during the pandemic," Koca also said, noting that the number of new daily cases remains below 1,200. The rate of pneumonia among patients has dropped, while the number of hospitalized patients and the number of discharged patients "are very close to each other," Koca said. On Sunday, Turkey reported 1,182 new cases and 15 deaths in the past 24 hours, Koca wrote on Twitter. The total death toll from COVID-19 in Turkey rose to 5,844, while 240,804 cases have been recorded. Another 1,182 patients recovered from the coronavirus Sunday, bringing the total recoveries to 223,759. Turkey's daily death toll has remained below 20 since July 16 as the coronavirus outbreak follows a somewhat uniform trend in the country. The number of new daily cases continues to hover around the 1,000 mark.
Istanbul to be regional center
Shaikh also spoke about a planned office for the international body to coordinate responses to emergencies like COVID-19.
“The office to be established in Istanbul will be a regional center of excellence in emergency preparedness. Turkey has a very strong reputation in disaster management, and that’s why we set an office in Istanbul. It is going to serve as a hub of emergency management in the region, from the European Union to Central Asia. It is going to provide data for researchers (and) academia and will work with the private sector and government to bring out the best practices of emergency management. We will cooperate with the Health Ministry and Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and will also bring together emergency management agencies in other countries to improve the preparedness against health emergencies,” he said.
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