Blizzard may provide pandemic respite to Istanbul: Experts
Snowy and cold weather and the mid-term school break may lead to some decline in COVID-19 cases in Istanbul but at the same time the increased movement between Turkey’s most populous city and other provinces pose risks for those destinations, experts have said.
Earlier this week a blizzard, one of the strongest in recent years, brought life to a standstill in the city with more than 15 million residents.
However, experts see some benefits from the blizzard as it confined people to their homes, reducing mobility within the city, which has been logging some daily 30,000 coronavirus cases as the Omicron strain of the virus has triggered infections.
“The heavy snowfall somehow forced the city’s residents to go into an ‘isolation,’ which will provide some respite to us in the days ahead in terms of the pandemic situation,” Professor Hakan Tükek, chief physician at the Istanbul Medical School Hospital, told daily Milliyet.
Tükek predicted a slight decline in daily cases in the city but warned that thousands of students living in Istanbul traveled to their hometowns and families to resort destinations.
“If those students ignore the basic anti-virus rules, such as face masks and social distancing, they will spread the virus in the provinces they are visiting.”
Duran Tok, an infectious diseases expert, agreed that Istanbul may see a drop in infections in the next 10 to 15 days due to “the snow-triggered isolation,” but cases are likely to rise one month later.
“The number of cases in Istanbul and across the country may peak starting the second week of February,” Tok said.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported that Turkey logged 82,180 new infections on Jan. 27, which marked the highest figure on record to date.
The country saw a surge in mid-April 2021, with daily infections exceeding 60,000. This prompted the government to introduce a raft of actions which eventually brought the number of daily cases below 6,000 in July.
However, they started to pick up again, climbing to around 40,000 cases in December last year. Daily infections jumped over 60,000 in early January and have remained above this level since then.
As the cases hit a new high, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca took to social media to warn people against the risks in winter months and to get their booster shots.
“Our health staff are on duty. If it is time for you to receive the booster shot, do not yield to the difficulties stemming from winter conditions. Risks from COVID-19 are heightened in winter months. It is very crucial to receive the shot on time,” Koca wrote on Twitter.
To date, nearly 27 million people have been given a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Over 57 million people have been double jabbed and another 57 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine since Turkey rolled out its inoculation drive in January last year.