Minister pleads with public to stick to anti-virus rules

Minister pleads with public to stick to anti-virus rules

Minister pleads with public to stick to anti-virus rules

In the face of heightened threats from the Omicron variant of COVID-19, people must now stick to basic anti-virus rules and measures just like they did at the start of the pandemic, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said.

The minister’s warning came after the daily virus cases in Turkey spiked last week, even hitting nearly 41,000 on Dec. 31, the highest level since April as the Omicron strain appears to be taking hold in the country.

“We need to put the face masks on properly and we must pay more attention to social distancing… against the dangers the Omicron variant is posing and to prevent the spread of it,” Koca wrote on Twitter on Jan. 1.

Earlier on Dec. 31, the minister issued a statement on the impact of the Omicron strain, saying that the rise in daily infections observed over the past week were in fact not unexpected.

“The strain is more transmissible and is becoming the dominant variant. The number of cases doubled in the country in the past 10 days,” Koca said in the statement.

He noted that in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, infections increased five-fold in the same period, and it accounted for more than 52 percent of all Omicron-linked cases in the country. “This situation may occur in all provinces in the near future.” Previously, Istanbul accounted for some 22 percent of all cases in the country.

Koca, however, stressed that despite the spike in infections, hospitalizations in the city and across the country increased only 6.2 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively, warning that the virus is hitting the elderly hard.

According to the minister, people aged over 60 accounted for more than 87 percent of fatalities due to the pandemic in the past one month, while the same age group accounted for some 17 percent of the cases recorded.

The fact that the Omicron has not yet significantly increased hospitalizations should not cause people to act complacent, Koca said.

The number of daily infections peaked in April, rising to as much as 60,000 cases. After the country imposed restrictions to contain the spread of the virus, the cases declined sharply, down to around 5,000 in June only to start to increase again in July. Since mid-December 2020, daily infections had been around 20,000. But they breached the 30,000-mark on Dec. 28., rising to 40,786 on Dec. 31.

In the face of all those threats, the minister once again urged the public to get their booster shots as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, appointments have been opened for those who have been given two doses of the Sinovac and two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to get their fifth shots, provided that they received the last jab three months ago.

To date, more than 132 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Turkey, with over 19 million people having been given the third doses.

Nearly 57 people have been double jabbed and some 57 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine since the country rolled out its vaccination program in January last year.