With the declining coronavirus cases thanks to a strict lockdown in Turkey, the country has entered a 15-day period of gradual lifting of restrictions as of early Monday.
The 17-day full lockdown, which covered the remainder of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as well as three days of Ramadan Bayram, also known as Eid al-Fitr, ended as of 5 a.m. local time (0200 GMT).
The country's Health Ministry reported over 10,500 new coronavirus cases Sunday. A total of 10,512 cases, including 920 symptomatic patients, were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours.
Turkey’s overall case tally is now over 5.11 million, while the death toll reached 44,760, with 223 more fatalities over the past day.
As many as 14,418 more patients won the battle against the virus, taking the total number of recoveries past 4.94 million.
More than 50.86 million coronavirus tests have been conducted to date, with 202,243 more done since Saturday. The latest figures show that the number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition stands at 2,468.
As part of the 15-day measures, cafes, and restaurants will only offer delivery services, while chain supermarkets will remain closed Sundays.
All intercity travels will be subject to permissions and public transport will continue to operate at 50% capacity. An Interior Ministry statement early Sunday said the gradual normalization will start at 5 a.m. local time Monday and conclude at the same time on June 1.
During the new period, weekdays will see night curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., while weekends will be under full lockdown, the ministry said. Intercity travel will be allowed outside the curfew days and hours.
There will be no special restrictions on people aged 65 and over who have taken two doses of COVID-19 vaccines or those under 18. Cafes and restaurants will provide takeaway and delivery services only on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on weekends, delivery service only from 7 a.m. to midnight. Shopping malls will operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and will be closed on weekends. Wedding halls, sports centers and game halls will also remain closed.
According to Hürriyet daily, the government wants to keep daily cases between a maximum of 10,000-15,000 during the summer season. Experts warn against a possible surge after the beginning of public mobilization.
Turkey has administered over 25.78 million coronavirus jabs since launching a mass vaccination campaign on Jan. 14, according to official figures.
More than 14.95 million people have received their first doses, while over 10.83 million have been fully vaccinated.
Since December 2019, the pandemic has claimed over 3.37 million lives in 192 countries and regions, with nearly 162.6 million cases reported worldwide, according to the U.S.' Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S., India, and Brazil remain the worst-hit countries in terms of the number of infections.
Coronavirus has negatively impacted people suffering from hypertension, which is the primary risk factor for cardiovascular diseases claiming millions of lives every year, said Dr. Mustafa Kemal Erol, the head of the Turkish Cardiology Association.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) on World Hypertension Day, Erol said hypertension, besides increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, also leads to kidney failure and development of cerebrovascular disease.
He said cardiovascular and circulatory system diseases are still the primary cause of death in the world and Turkey apart from the coronavirus pandemic. He urged people not to forget other deadly cardiovascular system diseases.
"COVID-19 is of course our primary area of struggle, but this does not mean that chronic diseases and other causes of death have disappeared. When we look at the death statistics in Turkey, we see that 37.1% of all deaths in 2019 are due to circulatory system diseases," he said.
He said while hypertension has no link with the virus, although the infection gets more severe in patients with existing heart problems.
"The infection has a more devastating effect on patients with target organ damage due to hypertension, patients with cardiovascular system diseases, such as heart failure, heart attack, or kidney failure. The course of the disease becomes more severe, and more patients die," he said.
He said since the pandemic has forced people to remain indoors, it can lead to serious problems such as inactivity, weight gain, and obesity.
"This inactivity increased the risk of obesity and stress. We are saddened to lose our beloved ones. All these incidents have negatively affected the blood pressure and cardiovascular disease," he said.
He advised people over 65 years old, where the incidence of hypertension is already high, to remain physically active even at home since they have been confined to their homes for more than a year.
"We recommend our patients to pay close attention to their diets, not to abandon the salt-free diet for blood pressure patients, as well as to do simple physical-fitness exercises, not eat when they are bored, not gain weight and restrict their calorie intake," he added.
He also said hypertension patients should not stop taking their medicines and check their blood pressure regularly.
Noting that one in three people have hypertension in Turkey, Erol said 45% of the patients are not even aware of the illness.
"Hypertension is an insidious disease and its symptoms are extremely subtle. It may give general symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and tinnitus," he said, adding that people learn this "painful truth" after suffering a heart attack or stroke.
He said these patients do not receive treatment as they are not diagnosed.
"Our goal is to diagnose all of these patients on time and to minimize the risk at the country level by treating it appropriately," he noted.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hypertension, also known as high or raised blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure.
The WHO said that hypertension is diagnosed if blood pressure readings are higher than 140/90 or above on two different days.
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