Istanbul epicenter of Omicron cases, says health minister

Istanbul epicenter of Omicron cases, says health minister

Istanbul epicenter of Omicron cases, says health minister

Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous city, has become the epicenter of the rise in the Omicron variant-related cases, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said.

The daily infections in the country have been on the rise recently, with cases hovering above 60,000, a level Turkey saw only in April last year.

“Hospitalizations [due to COVID-19] across Tukey have risen by 6.2 percent in the last three weeks,” Koca wrote on Twitter on Jan. 9.

But the minister noted that there had not been a significant increase in the number of patients in intensive care units or intubation. “Most of our casualties [due to COVID-19] are those aged above 60 and people with chronic illnesses,” Koca added.

On Jan. 6, the daily infections hit an all-time high of 68,413 as the Omicron strain of the virus took in the country.

The coronavirus has infected nearly 9.3 million people and killed more than 81,000 patients in Turkey to date.

Meanwhile, the number of vaccines administered in the country has exceeded 136 million doses, with nearly 52 million people having been double jabbed.

Over 21 million people have been given their third dose of the jab against COVID-19, while more than 57 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Turkey rolled out its vaccination program in January last year with the jab developed by the Chinese firm Sinovac. Later it started to use the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, and earlier this month, it added the locally-developed jab, Turkovac, to its arsenal of vaccines.

In the face of the threats from the Omicron variants, government officials and health experts have intensified calls for people to get vaccinated.

Data from the Health Ministry show that the vaccination rates among the provinces significantly vary. In Istanbul, around 77 percent of the adult population is double jabbed, while the corresponding rates are 82 percent in Ankara and over 84 percent in İzmir, the third-largest city.

In the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, only 60 percent of the adult population have received two doses of the vaccine, but in the nearby province of Osmaniye, the vaccination rate is 88 percent.