Turkey records worrying spike in COVID-19 cases

Turkey records worrying spike in COVID-19 cases

Turkey registered nearly 25,000 new coronavirus cases on Aug. 3, with a weekly average of 22,500 cases. Following a decline in the number of new cases in the aftermath of the three-week lockdown in May, the figures started to surge again in early July as the domestic and international tourism season began.

According to public health experts, there are three main reasons for this spike. First, they cite the spread of the Delta variant through the arrival of large numbers of Russian tourists. Second, the intense mobilization of the Turks for the celebrations of the Eid al-Adha in mid-July. It was observed that fewer Turks obeyed the hygiene rules and other health measures during this period. And the third reason is the vaccination -- some refuse to get inoculated, while many Turks decided to postpone the second jab after the summer.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca provided important information about the vaccination process in a statement on Aug. 6. New coronavirus cases in Turkey’s largest cities, such as Istanbul and Ankara, significantly increased over a period of one week, the minister underlined. For instance, Istanbul, with a population of 16 million, saw the number of cases per 100,000 people jump from 88.19 registered between July 17 and July 23 to 168.82 cases registered between July 24 and July 30.

Koca has also stressed that the number of fully vaccinated people was not high enough. According to the official figures, out of 85 million people, just 28.5 million have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine, which means that only one-fourth of the nation is fully vaccinated. Koca and other government officials have constantly been urging people to get vaccinated.

Increasing the pace of vaccination and reducing the spread of the coronavirus will be very important in the coming period as Turkey is planning to start face-to-face education in early September. Pandemic dealt a big blow to education everywhere in the world, and Turkey is no exception. Eighteen million students and their families want a return to schools as they believe the past one and a half years were a big loss for them. Although remote-online education has been structured swiftly, it is hard to say that it could replace physical education ats a good response plan.

It is in this context that Turkey has appointed a new education minister. Through a presidential decree, Professor Mahmut Özer was appointed as the education minister after the resignation of Professor Ziya Selçuk, who had been doing this job since July 2018.

“I will be doing everything to open the schools in September,” the new minister said, adding, “We have no luxury to keep them closed.” He also stated that they can’t wait for the number of new cases to be zero for the resumption of face-to-face education. It’s known that Selçuk was unhappy because of not being able to return to physical education as a result of the government’s prioritization of the economy to education. It’s therefore very important to see that the new minister has committed himself to open the schools in early September.

Having said that, it will be important to observe the course of the country’s combat against the pandemic in the coming weeks and to hear the advice of the Science Board. The next cabinet meeting – probably to be held on Aug. 9 - is expected to discuss all the aspects of the pandemic, including the minister’s promise of starting face-to-face education.