Cases climb to record high, hospitals brace for wave of patients
The number of daily infections has reached a new record as hospitals are bracing for a wave of COVID-19 patients, with some of them increasing their bed capacity.
The country saw daily infections climb to 60,000 in April last year, prompting officials to introduce a raft of measures to bring the pandemic under control.
“There is a significant increase in cases, but this rise has not yet lead to higher deaths. However, as cases due to the Omicron [variant] become dominant, the Omicron will be the source of danger for at-risk groups and may cause deaths among the elderly and people with chronic illnesses,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, hospitals particularly in Istanbul, which Koca recently labelled as the epicenter of the of rise in the Omicron variant-related cases, are increasing bed capacity to treat the COVID-patients.
“Hospitalizations and the occupancy rates in intensive care units (ICU) in Istanbul are high. Some hospitals had to add more beds. For the time being, admissions to ICUs in the Anatolian provinces are lower but they are likely to experience the same trend. The first and second waves of COVID originated in Istanbul and spread to other provinces,” said Professor Oktay Demirkıran, the head of the Turkish Society of Intensive Care.
Demirkıran stressed what other experts have long warned about, saying that most of those admitted to hospitals and ICUs for COVID-19 treatment are either unvaccinated or those who skipped their booster shots.
The current number of cases is unprecedented, said Professor Tevfik Özlü, from the Health Ministry’s Science Board, which advises the government on the pandemic.
“We are worried, because the infections have not yet peaked and overwhelmed hospitals. But if cases continue to rise at their current pace, occupancy rates will inevitably rise. The situation in Istanbul sets an example as to where the rest of the country is headed to,” Özlü added.
“Only five beds out of the total 120 in our ICU are vacant now. We may, however, respond swiftly to increase the capacity. We are not currently experiencing problems that we had at the start of the pandemic,” said Alpaslan Tanoglu, the chief physician at Professor Feriha Oz Emergency Hospital in Istanbul.
Data from the Health Ministry show that bed occupancy rate at the country’s hospitals is 57 percent, while the occupancy rate in adult ICUs is around 71 percent.
COVID-19 has infected nearly 9 million people in Turkey and claimed the lives of more than 82,000 patients.