Turkey eases PCR test requirements

Turkey eases PCR test requirements

Turkey eases PCR test requirements

Only people who show symptoms for COVID-19 will be given PCR tests from now on, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has announced, adding that other test requirements have also been eased.

“Taking into account the practices in developed countries and the state of the pandemic, tests for screening purposes and the PCR test mandate for those who came into contact with infected people have been lifted,” the minister said on Jan. 12 following a meeting of the Health Ministry’s Science Board, which advises the government on COVID-19.

The board also decided that those who have been given a booster shot but come into contact with people who have COVID-19 will not be required to go into quarantine, Koca said.

As far as the pandemic outlook in Turkey is concerned, the minister said as it is the case around the globe, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has become the dominant strain in the county.

The number of COVID-19 cases has increased fourfold in the past month but hospitalizations due to the pandemic have risen only 10 percent over the same period, according to the minister.

“Compared with the earlier stages of the pandemic, presently the hospitalization rate among those infected is lower. But if cases climb to very high numbers, a large number of people would have to be admitted to hospitals and this is the worst-case scenario we don’t want to see,” Koca said.

The current trend, however, strengthens hope that not the worst-case but a rather promising scenario could materialize, the minister added.

The Health Ministry reported on Jan. 12 that daily infections hit a new record high of 77,722, climbing from the previous day’s 74,000 cases.

Turkey saw cases above 60,000 in April last year, but daily infections dropped to less 6,000 in the summer after the government introduced a series of restrictions. The virus cases started to climb again in late December last year.

The bed occupancy rate across the country is currently 57 percent, while the occupancy rate in adult intensive care units is around 71 percent, according to data from the Health Ministry. There are 1,100 COVID-19 patients in critical condition.

Koca also welcomed the results from phase three trials on the locally developed vaccine, Turkovac, which showed that the homegrown jab is as effective as the vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinovac.

“Nobody should have any doubt in saying out loud that Turkovac is safe. The approval for emergency use was granted based on data from the trials,” he said.

Meanwhile, Turkey has administered nearly 138 million doses of vaccines against COVID-19. The country is using Turkovac as well as the jabs developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Sinovac in its vaccination drive.

Nearly 23 million people have been given the booster shots and over 52 million others have been double jabbed. Also, more than 57 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.