New restrictions may be introduced amid spike in virus cases

New restrictions may be introduced amid spike in virus cases

Nuray Babacan - Ankara
New restrictions may be introduced amid spike in virus cases

Turkish authorities are considering measures, including possible new curbs, to respond to a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases as well as the presence of virus variants in the country.

As part of the possible precautionary actions, some region-specific restrictions may be introduced, said officials, without elaborating on what they might be.

At least four weeks are needed to conclude whether virus variants are the reason behind the recent increase in the daily infections, which has been hovering around at 8,000 since the start of February, according to the officials.

To date, the U.K., South African and Brazilian variants of COVID-19 have been detected in more than 20 provinces in Turkey, which some experts suspect could be the cause of the sharp rise in infections.

Some officials, on the other hand, argue that not the variants but the public’s growing complacent behavior might be the reason for the recent spike in the cases. They particularly pointed at the tightly knitted relations between relatives, such as making frequent home visits, in the country’s rural areas.

Authorities note that the number of patients being treated in the intensive care units has dropped in Turkey’s large cities, but the infections are on the rise. Officials are also investigating whether Turkey has its own virus variant.

The COVID-19 tests are still producing a positivity rate of 5 percent and the impact of the virus variants, if any, will be seen in the next four weeks, they said, noting that the Chinese company Sinovac’s vaccine could be effective against those virus variants.

If the daily number of cases rise to 15,000 to 20,000 again then it is possible to say that Turkey is facing the third wave of the outbreak, officials said.

Turkey has already administered the first doses of the injection to nearly 2.8 million people, mostly health care workers and the elderly. Health workers are set to receive the second dose of the vaccine on Feb. 11.

Turkey requires an at least 10 days of isolation for those who contracted the virus variants, which is seven days for regular COVID-19 cases.

The Health Ministry has already sent new test kits to hospitals to identify the virus variants. People who test positive for COVID-19 are also required take another test for the virus variants.