Turkey has been grappling with a slight increase in the number of COVID-19 cases after a period of success against the deadly virus. But this may be "the tip of the iceberg,” an official warns, pointing to asymptomatic patients who in Turkey, like elsewhere in the world, carry a risk of a greater infection rate.
Professor Toker Ergüder, a senior official from World Health Organization (WHO) office in Turkey, says the country saw a rise in the number of daily cases in the past days but this situation is not being faced by Turkey alone and 80% of patients in the world are asymptomatic. “Combine this with the low sensitivity of currently available test kits, you have to multiply the number of cases by six or seven both here and in the world,” he warned.
He said that the virus is still as infectious. “Test kits are only 60% efficient in producing correct results and the majority of patients show no symptoms and they are among us,” Ergüder told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Wednesday.
Turkey's daily coronavirus infections remained over 1,400 on Tuesday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced. Some 1,467 people tested positive for COVID-19 in a 24-hour period on Tuesday, bringing the total caseload to over 181,000. Meanwhile, the death toll rose to 4,842 with 17 new fatalities.
Turkey is seeing an upward trend in the daily number of infections after cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums were authorized to reopen, intercity travel restrictions were lifted and stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young were eased at the start of June.
The daily number of infections has climbed to around 1,500 in the past four days after hovering around 800-900 previously. The total number of recoveries from the disease reached 153,379, while 732 patients remain in intensive care, Koca said. Turkey has made the wearing of face masks mandatory in five more provinces, following an uptick in the number of cases.
Ergüder says Turkey controlled the outbreak “pretty well,” pointing to a wide array of measures imposed since the first cases were reported. “Turkey closed its borders before many others did and imposed a curfew for people in the high-risk groups. It shut down schools. These measures helped to keep fatalities low compared to other countries. Now, the public has to support these measures by complying with rules (of wearing masks, keeping social distancing and paying attention to hygiene),” Ergüder said.
Professor Hasan Tezer, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Science Board, warns that alarm bells are ringing for the country due to the surge in daily new cases. “Something is wrong if you see a rise for five days in a row. This means people do not comply with rules,” Tezer told DHA on Wednesday.
“People’s carelessness triggered an increase in the number of cases. We had around 900 cases a day (weeks ago) and now we are back to around 1,500 daily. This is a warning for us though it is not a very significant rise,” he underlined. Tezer says they might consider introducing new restrictions if the number of daily cases reaches 2,000 or above. “We can assess what to do especially in terms of measures for crowded places,” he said.
New guidelines against COVID-19
The Health Ministry issued a new set of guidelines Wednesday for reopened places after the easing of pandemic-related restrictions. The guidelines are part of the ministry's “Pandemic Management and Work Guide” previously issued for a range of sectors. New guidelines cover air-conditioning methods in the “new normal” and measures in student dormitories, on boats and at exhibition venues.
Man-made air circulation in enclosed spaces is a major risk that enables the virus to spread more easily. The guidelines recommend places like hospitals, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas use “natural air circulation,” or keeping doors and windows open instead of relying on air conditioning devices. For mass transit vehicles like subway trains, the ministry recommends decreasing passenger capacity and eliminating the need for the use of air conditioning. The public is also advised to turn off the air conditioner when admitting guests to their homes.
Student dormitories also pose a high risk of infection, and the Health Ministry recommends decreasing the capacity of dormitory rooms, ensuring disinfectant use and mandating the wearing masks for students and dormitory staff.
For boats and yachts serving tourists on excursions, the Health Ministry advises “an appointment system” for visitors and the compulsory wearing of masks for all passengers, who will be obliged to sit at least 1 meter apart.
For exhibitions, organizers are ordered to provide access to sanitizers for visitors, and all ticket sales should be online. All visitors will be required to wear masks, and separate doors will be used for entry and exit.
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