Black Sea provinces under spotlight amid spike in virus cases
As Turkey plans to start easing COVID-19-releated restrictions gradually in March, a spike in the number of virus cases in five provinces in the country’s Black Sea region has caused deep concerns.
The provinces of Ordu, Giresun, Samsun, Trabzon and Rize stand out among all 81 provinces of the country in terms of the spread of the virus.
The weekly data provided by the Health Ministry for Feb. 15 and Feb. 21 show that Ordu topped the list with 228 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Giresun at 218 infections. Trabzon had nearly 208 cases per 100,000 people and the corresponding figures for Samsun and Rize were 203 and 200, respectively.
Artvin, neighboring Rize, had 76 cases per 100,000 people, while Sinop, neighboring Samsun, reported 84 cases per 100,000 people for the week.
Istanbul, which was once the epicenter of the outbreak in the country, had much fewer infections compared to those provinces at 68 per 100,000 people and the capital Ankara is in a much better situation at a little more than 35 cases.
In the face of the spike in the virus cases, local officials in those Black Sea provinces are taking additional measures to arrest the spread of the disease.
Certain social activities, such as home visits, and travel between the city and villages have been banned in Ordu. In Rize, groups no more than two people are allowed to gather in stores or in front of buildings for casual chat or smoking.
Experts suggest that social interaction and activities could be the reason behind the increase in the virus cases.
“People travel to villages ahead of the weekend lockdown. In villages they spend time in a single, crowded house,” said Funda Neslihan Fortun from the Samsun Medical Chamber.
The residents of Trabzon pour into the streets over the weekend despite the curfew for “shopping,” ignoring virus rules, according to Kibar Yaşar Güven, the head of the Trabzon Medical Chamber.
He also pointed that mobility between the cities in the Black Sea region is high.
Professor Mustafa Necmi İlhan from the Health Ministry’s Social Sciences Board argued that the virus variants could also be another reason for the spread of the disease as well as other social factors at play.
İlhan proposed that if the number of cases rise from the current 200 to 300 per 100,000, then local authorities may ban travel to and from those provinces or lockdowns could be imposed on the districts and neighborhoods.
Diverse approaches could be adopted on a provincial basis or in the different parts of a province, depending on the course of the outbreak, İlhan said.