The Health Ministry announced that quarantine rules for those who came into contact with COVID-19 positive cases were changed while polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will be conducted only for those with symptoms. The announcement follows a move last week which reduced quarantine times for COVID-19 positive cases from 14 to seven days, in line with similar rules increasingly applied in other countries as well.
Although Turkey is grappling with an unprecedented surge in the pandemic, with 77,722 cases Wednesday, the highest since the onset of the pandemic in Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Wednesday that the omicron variant, a culprit in the surge, may reduce the severity of the outbreak, as the hospitalization rates were lower compared to the rise in daily numbers. Koca's statements came after a meeting of the Health Ministry's Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board. Hospitalization increased by 10% in the past month, even though daily cases jumped fourfold, he said.
"We saw more hospitalizations with lower case numbers in the previous periods of the pandemic. It looks like the omicron variant will reduce the danger of the pandemic," he said. In late December, daily cases stood at about 20,000. There were 145 deaths related to coronavirus in the same 24-hour period, ministry data showed on Wednesday. Deaths have not spiked in recent weeks despite the rise in daily cases.
The board decided to lift quarantine requirements for people with three vaccine shots when they have come into contact with COVID-19 positive people. "All positive cases will be able to end isolation after seven days," Koca said. Koca added that PCR test requirements for people who have come into contact with others infected with the coronavirus was also lifted. "From now on, PCR tests will only be conducted on people showing symptoms," he said.
The minister also spoke about the domestically developed Turkovac vaccine and said that no one should hesitate in saying the vaccine is safe to use. Turkovac reduces the risk of contracting COVID-19 by nearly 50% compared to the Chinese CoronaVac, according to a study conducted by Turkey's leading Hacettepe University.