Minister urges caution as virus cases remain high
“We need to lower the number of cases in a consistent manner and to reduce the death toll [from the pandemic]. The only way to achieve this is to increase the vaccination rate. All depends on precautions and the vaccine, basically, all depends on us,” Koca wrote on Twitter on Sept. 7, citing nearly 24,000 new cases recorded on the day.
The number of daily coronavirus cases in Turkey, which climbed to record levels in April, rising even above 60,000, eased to around 6,000 to 5,000 in June and July.
However, they started to increase again afterward and have been hovering at around or above 20,000 despite the ongoing vaccination drive.
The death toll from the pandemic, on the other hand, has been on the rise since mid-August, hitting 290 on Sept. 1.
Experts say an overwhelming majority of the patients in hospitals’ intensive care units are unvaccinated or those not fully vaccinated. They also say more and more young people are being admitted to hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.
Koca’s warning came at a time when 10 million students and over 1 million teachers this week returned to schools for face-to-face education after nearly an 18-month break.
The minister recently cautioned that people are flocking back to big cities as the new academic year began, which means increased mobility and heightened risks.
Meanwhile, Koca announced earlier this week that the Mu variant of COVID-19 has been detected in at least two people in Turkey.
The health minister said officials are monitoring the situation and no new measures are being considered at the moment.
First identified in Colombia this January, the Mu strain has been found in nearly 40 countries so far and was recently classified as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Data from the country’s Health Ministry show that Turkey has administered more than 99 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since it rolled out its inoculation drive in mid-January.
Over 39 million people have received two doses of the jab, which account for more than 63 percent of the population aged 18 and above. Moreover, nearly 51 million people have been given their first doses, corresponding to 81 percent of the same age group.
In an effort to encourage people to get the jab, the government has made it mandatory for unvaccinated to provide a negative PCR test to be able to use public transport for intercity travel or to attend social events, such as concerts and to enter public venues, including cinemas.