Highly anticipated Science Board meeting postponed
The Health Ministry’s Science Board, which advises the government on COVID-19, postponed its highly anticipated meeting for a week.
Board members were supposed to discuss on Feb.23 the fight against the pandemic and reconsider anti-virus measures.
“The press release regarding the measures will be issued on March 1,” the Health Ministry said.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Feb.16, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that the face mask mandate as well as steps to be taken onwards would be discussed at the Science Board meeting, without providing other details.
The public was expecting a decision from the Science Board on face masks.
Local media reported this week that officials were considering scrapping obligations to wear protective face masks and social distancing starting March as they expect the pandemic situation to improve by then.
If plans go ahead, people will not be required to have their masks on or observe the social distancing rules in parks and streets. The new regulation will also apply to restaurants’ outdoor dining spaces.
However, unlike outdoors, face mask mandates will still be in place on public transport, on planes, trains, shopping centers, theaters and cinemas.
“The pandemic is not threatening society as a whole but has become something that poses risks to particular groups at risk. In the fight against the pandemic we need to focus on those risk groups. People who live with the elderly and those with chronic illnesses now have bigger responsibilities,” Koca wrote on Twitter.
Turkey saw a spike in the number of daily cases in early February, with infections climbing above 100,000 due to the more contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19.
However, cases later started to decline. Since Feb. 18, the number of daily infections has been below 90,000.
Several experts, including Koca, voiced optimism that the decline in cases would continue in the coming weeks.