Omicron may become dominant in February, warns expert
Meltem Özgenç – ISTANBUL
Omicron may become the dominant variant of the coronavirus in Turkey in February, a professor from the Health Ministry’s Science Board has warned, as virus cases continue rising, nearing 45,000 in the country.
“It is more likely to see Omicron as the dominant variant in the last week of January or the first two weeks of February,” Alper Şener, a professor from İzmir Katip Çelebi University, told Demirören News Agency on Jan. 4.
Şener said he thinks there will be a serious increase in the outpatient cases in a month. “I think the polyclinics [across the country] will be full.”
He also urged people to get their booster shots. “Two doses are not enough against Omicron, you need a third dose,” he said, voicing concern that there were people hesitant towards received the third dose of the vaccine.
Zafer Kurugöl, the head of the Pediatrics Department of Ege University, is of the same opinion as Şener.
Estimating that new high records on daily cases may be “broken” at the end of January, he said, “The number of daily cases may reach 100,000 as of the beginning of February.”
To stop the spread of the Omicron variant, Kurugöl advised the vaccination program should begin covering children.
There is strong demand from families to vaccinate their children aged between five and 11 against COVID-19, he told the daily Hürriyet on Jan. 4.
“In Turkey, adolescents between 12 and 16 are getting jabbed. But we need to start vaccination in the age group of five to 11,” he said and added: “The Omicron variant is mostly seen among young people and children. The age group of five to 11 is the group in which the increase in the cases in the world is happening.”
As of Jan. 3, Turkey has administered nearly 133 million doses of vaccines since it launched an immunization drive in January 2021. Nearly 57 million people got a first jab, while nearly 52 million have been fully vaccinated. The number of people with third booster shots reached 20 million.
“We want to continue face-to-face education, but unfortunately many classes have been closed due to the virus’ spread,” he reminded. He also highlighted that children can pass on the variant to their household, putting the elderlies of the families without booster shots at risk.
“Some 8 million in this age group of five to 11 have been vaccinated in the U.S. Only 11 kids had adenoids as side effects. The body reactions of the rest to the vaccine were no more than pain in the arm, fatigue and mild temperature.”
Kurugöl also warned unvaccinated people against the Omicron variant.
“Omicron does not pose dangers to the vaccinated, but may cause death among the unvaccinated,” he said.
Separately, the municipality of the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir has canceled all events such as concerts, exhibitions and theater plays scheduled for January due to the rising daily cases.
The number of people under treatment has risen to some 14,500 from 8,600 in just a week in the province where more than 85 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
There are long queues in front of three major state hospitals in the province which has a population of 900,000.
Local health officials are urging people to wear masks in public and ensure social distancing.