Experts urge calm but caution over new COVID strain
Turkish experts have urged the public to remain calm and not panic amid threats from the new COVID-19 strain, Omicron, but also called on people to get vaccinated and stick to anti-virus rules.
Turkey on Nov. 26 banned travel from five African nations, including South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, as a precaution against the new variant.
“We are one of the countries which took measures swiftly against the Nu [Omicron] strain. No cases of the Nu variant have been detected in Turkey,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted on Nov. 27, adding that Delta is the dominant strain in the country.
The immediate task is to prevent this new variant “from entering the country,” said Professor Nurettin Yiyit from the Health Ministry’s Science Board, which advises the government on the pandemic.
“COVID has mutated many times and we got panicked each time, but only two variants have become dominant. Only time will tell if the newly found strain will become dominant,” he added.
“We should not immediately become anxious.”
Yiyit added that the precautions people need to take against the new variant is no different than the measures against the previous strains, such as social distancing and wearing face masks.
Professor Kenan Midilli, also from the Science Board, agreed.
He urged people to avoid crowded and indoor places as all experts have been recommending since the start of the pandemic.
Midilli also stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and speeding up the pace of the jab drive in the face of the new COVID-19 strain.
“All age groups included in the inoculation program must be jabbed,” he said.
To date, Turkey has administered more than 120 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines since it rolled out the jab program in January.
More than 50 million people, or over 81 percent of the population aged 18 and above, have been double jabbed, while 56 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Additionally over 12 million people have been given a third dose.
Last week, Koca announced that the emergency authorization application for the domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, Turkovac, was submitted to the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency (TİTCK).
Turkovac was developed by a team of scientists in cooperation with the Presidency of Turkish Health Institutes (TÜSEB) and Kayseri Erciyes University, and its phase 3 human trials started in June.
The country is presently using Pfizer/BioNTech’s shot and the jab developed by the Chinese firm Sinovac.