As a new strain of the coronavirus disrupts life in the United Kingdom and nations scramble to cut off links with the country, Turkey has been monitoring its own cases, checking for the possible mutation of the deadly virus.
The country canceled flights to four countries on Sunday, joining a growing list of nations, and began requiring passengers arriving from the U.K. to quarantine. Authorities say new flight restrictions could be applied to other countries if the new strain of the virus is reported there. For now, it plans to increase the number of genetic analysis studies being carried out on the virus to determine whether a mutation has occurred. Another concern is whether the new strain will be resistant to the vaccines the country plans to inoculate millions with soon, which health authorities will look into.
Members of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, which oversees restrictions to counter the outbreak, are quietly optimistic but remain cautious. Professor Tevfik Özlü shared that there was no definitive information available about the new strain yet and that the situation requires closer observation. “It is observed that the virus is more infectious in this new form but there is no data on whether it increased fatality or severity rates. It is still debated whether it would affect immunity. For now, the possibility of a bad scenario is low but we should still comply with measures and prevent any possible infection,” he said.
Professor Murat Akova said that the coronavirus has 17 different mutations and it is not clear yet whether this new strain is resistant to vaccines. “Even if it is resistant, vaccine ingredients can be changed to boost immunity. We should not drop our guard,” he said. Professor Sema Turan said that the virus saw its first mutation in February, and no concrete information is currently available on whether it is more severe. On vaccines, she said that the new strain would not be a problem for the inactive vaccines Turkey planned to use, referring to a vaccine, which was tested on other diseases before and proved effective.