Desert dust plume slams Turkey, increasing virus risk
Experts have said the desert dust that arrived in Turkey on March 31 from Africa will start showing its impact on the country until the beginning of next week, growing the risk of accelerating coronavirus cases in the country.
According to the first reports, the desert dust was supposed to affect the western coasts and the southeastern provinces only for two days.
“Due to the winds, the duration extended until late Sunday [April 3],” said Hüseyin Toros, a meteorologist from the Istanbul Technical University.
“We will get rid of it on Monday [April 4],” he added.
The Turkish State Meteorological Service warned residents in the provinces of Central Anatolia, Aegean and Black Sea regions to take measures against heavy dust clouds across the weekend.
“We recommend everyone, irrespective of old or young, to stay indoors. Keep the windows closed tight,” said Hasan Bayram, the head of the Turkish Thorax Association.
Saying that those with chronic diseases or COPD and cardiac patients are at risk, Bayram said inhaling dust may cause headaches, flu, or sore throat.
All experts advise people to wear face masks if they need to go out. Prominent meteorologist Orhan Şen is one of them who suggested there is no need to panic. “We expect rain on Sunday in the Marmara region,” he said, hinting the end of the desert storm.
A professor from Dokuz Eylül University in the western province of İzmir warned of an increase in coronavirus cases due to the desert storm.
“The dust coat increases the time of the COVID-19 virus particles and droplets to stay floating in the air. This will increase the number of cases,” Doğan Yaşar said.
“Remember April 2020. Turkey held a record with 5,000 COVID-19 cases. In April 2020, the country broke another record with 63,000. It is April again, and the desert dust is here,” he said.
When an infected person sneezes, the virus reaches the ground in three seconds. But the dust cloud in the air helps it stay for hours, the doctor said, reminding people to wear face masks.