Some 85% of new virus cases due to UK variant: Health minister
Some 85 percent of new COVID-19 cases across Turkey are due to the U.K. variant, the country’s health minister said on April 12, urging people to adhere to coronavirus measures to stem the spread of the virus.
Out of Turkey’s 81 provinces, “the South African variant of the virus has been detected in 285 people in 11 provinces, while the Brazilian strain has infected 166 people in nine provinces,” Fahrettin Koca told a news conference following the Coronavirus Science Board Meeting.
“A few California-New York and B.1.525 variants have also been detected,” he added.
A variant is a name given to a virus that has changed its original formation.
Comparing the COVID-19 variant with the SARS virus that caused a pandemic in 2003, the minister said, “Sometimes in case of a change, the virus turns ineffective. When the SARS virus had variants, it turned ineffective, and the pandemic was over. Now the opposite happens.”
The new variants of coronavirus are making the fight against the pandemic even more strenuous, Koca stressed.
According to the COVID-19 risk map, some 80 percent of the country’s population lives in the very-high-risk provinces, the minister said.
“There is no dramatic increase in the bed occupancy rate of 59 percent or the intensive care occupancy rate of 67.4 percent, but the developments are serious, and the data is cautionary,” he added.
Noting that Turkey, like many other countries, is facing a “new peak” in which the contagion is growing, Koca urged the public to reduce close contact and mobility.
“If our burden becomes unavoidably heavy, we may have to make [restrictive] arrangements as we have seen before,” Koca said.
Stressing that the conditions under the COVID-19 era have exhausted the public, the minister reminded that other countries have been dealing with similar problems.
“When you look at the data and the diminishing of peoples’ phycological resistance, our country is undergoing the hardest times during the ongoing pandemic,” Koca underlined.
Last November, 69 percent of patients in intensive care were over 65; this rate has currently dropped to 53 percent, he said.
The minister also highlighted that Turkey was one of the countries with a high vaccination rate.
He emphasized that at least 30 million BioNTech jabs would be delivered to Turkey by June, adding that negotiations have been continuing and the number of vaccines might be even more in quantity.
More than 18 million vaccine jabs have been inoculated across the country since the vaccination program began on Jan. 14.
“Nearly 7.5 million people have been vaccinated with two doses. We are the sixth country in the world with high vaccination numbers,” he said, pointing out that, however, nearly 23.6 percent of elderly people over 65 have not been vaccinated yet even when they had the right to do so.
UK variant not linked to more serious infections
The UK variant of the novel coronavirus does not increase the severity of COVID-19 compared to other strains, according to research published on April 13 that also confirmed its increased transmissibility.
The variant, known as B117, is now the dominant viral strain across much of Europe, and previous studies had shown it was linked to a higher likelihood of death than normal variants.
But two studies journals found no evidence that people with B117 experience worse symptoms or a greater risk of developing long COVID-19 than those infected with different variants.
The research found however that the variant was associated with a higher viral load and reproduction rate than normal variants.