Health Ministry ‘keeping close eye on Omicron’

Health Ministry ‘keeping close eye on Omicron’

Health Ministry ‘keeping close eye on Omicron’

With the Omicron strain of the coronavirus being detected in the country and causing worry among experts, Turkey’s Health Ministry has said that it is closely watching the developments regarding the new strain.

“Experts at our laboratories are carrying out genome sequence analyses of the Omicron and other strains and sharing the results on international scientific platforms,” the ministry said in a statement on Dec. 14.

The samples collected from the suspected variant cases are sent to the National Virology Reference Laboratory in Ankara for necessary tests to identify the possible strains, the statement added.

“We have regularly updated the screening tests and use them in all laboratories across the country. We also started a screening program for the Omicron strain,” said Dr. Gülay Korukluoğlu from the Virology Laboratory.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca last week announced that that the first cases of the Omicron strain were detected in the country, calling on people to remain calm but vigilant.

“The pandemic is now not as scary as when it first emerged. Why? It is not as destructive as it used to be to social life. Why? People develop milder symptoms. Why? The answer to these questions is the vaccine. Get your shots,” Koca wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, some social media users claimed that they made appointments to receive a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine but when they arrived at the health facilities to get the shot, they saw vials with Chinese writings on them, voicing suspicion that they might not be the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

However, officials from the Health Ministry told İhlas New Agency that those were the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. Those vaccines were initially produced by BioNTech for an Asian country, they said.

Turkey asked the company to increase supplies of the vaccine, and upon Turkey’s request, BioNTech sent the vaccines that were initially planned to be delivered to this Asian nation in vials with Chinese writing on them, authorities explained.

“They were the vaccines produced by BioNTech in Germany and the Asian country’s consent was sought before they were directed to Turkey,” officials from the Health Ministry said.