Many provinces risk lockdowns if cases keep rising, says expert

Many provinces risk lockdowns if cases keep rising, says expert

Many provinces risk lockdowns if cases keep rising, says expert

If the COVID-19 cases continue to rise, a number of provinces in Turkey may face lockdowns, an expert has warned as the latest official data showed that infections are spreading fast across the country.

Statistics suggest that the U.K. variant of the virus is now the dominant strain in many provinces and the situation may worsen if the Brazilian and South African variants, too, become dominant, Professor İlyas Dökmetaş from the Social Sciences University, told daily Hürriyet.

The province-based approach makes sense to return to a normal life, Dökmetaş said, however, he added that “People apparently perceive the reopening as acting irresponsibly, a lack of control.”

If the current situation persists, the summer will be worse than previously thought, he added.

“Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not there yet, we are still in the tunnel,” Dökmetaş said.

The latest data Health Minister Fahrettin Koca unveiled on March 20, on the infection rates across the 81 provinces of the country for March 13-19, showed a significant spike compared with the previous week.

The number of cases per 100,000 people was over 251 in Istanbul, up from 178 in the previous week, and 107 in the capital Ankara, rising from 68, and 111 in the western İzmir province, the country’s third-largest by population, from 78.

The Black Sea province of Samsun continued to have the highest number of cases this week with 508 per 100,000 people.

The southeastern provinces of Şırnak, Siirt, Hakkari, Mardin and Şanlıurfa had the lowest COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people between the given dates.

The rate was only 8 per 100,000 people in Şırnak for the last week, up from four the previous week.

Turkey three weeks ago started to ease some of the COVID-19-related measures under the controlled normalization phase.

Weekend lockdowns in low- and medium-risk provinces were lifted while they were eased in the high- and very-high-risk provinces. The government, however, kept weeknight curfews in place in all 81 provinces of the country.

As part of the normalization phase, restaurants and cafes are now allowed to accept customers from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 50 percent capacity in all provinces except for very-high-risk cities.

However, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned last week that new restrictions and curbs will be inevitable if the public does not comply with the anti-virus measures.

The government last week decided to continue implementing the current normalization practice in the provinces and Erdoğan said the developments would be closely monitored.

The country has administered more than 13 million doses of the virus vaccine since it rolled out the vaccination program on Jan. 14. Over 8 million people have received the first jab of the injection while more than 5 million people have received both doses.