Spike in coronavirus cases worries experts
A steep rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in most of Turkey’s 81 provinces and scenes of crowded streets and restaurants over the weekend have prompted experts to issue warnings as the country moved to a controlled normalization phase.
The number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people increased in all but 16 provinces between Feb. 27 and March 5 compared with the previous week, showed a map Health Minister Fahrettin Koca posted on Twitter.
Istanbul, which was once the epicenter of the outbreak, the capital Ankara and the western province of İzmir were among those provinces which saw a rise in infections within a space of one week.
The number of cases per 100,000 people increased to around 112 from 89.9 in Istanbul while Ankara saw infections rise to 55 from 39.8 and in İzmir cases climbed to 66 from 53.
The government last week announced the plan to gradually ease some of the virus-related restrictions, including weekend lockdowns on a provincial basis while restaurants and cafes have been allowed to serve customers during limited business hours and at 50 percent capacity.
For the first time in months, lockdowns were lifted in low- and medium-risk provinces, including Ankara, over the weekend. People in Istanbul and İzmir as well as the residents of high- and very-high-risk provinces, were able to venture outside on Saturday, but the curfew was in place on Sunday in those provinces.
However, scenes of large crowds flocking to the streets, parks, restaurants and cafes, ignoring mask and social distancing rules, worried experts, prompting them to issue warnings particularly for Istanbul.
The high-risk provinces should be more cautious to reduce their risk. Normalization should be realized in a controlled manner, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.
“We may see a third wave of the outbreak in April if people continue to flood the restaurants as they did this weekend. Restaurants and indoor venues were full, and traffic came to a complete halt in almost every part of the city,” Professor Sait Gönen, the dean of Cerrahpaşa Medical School, told Milliyet, describing the situation in Istanbul.
“If we keep going this way, I am afraid troubling days lie ahead for us,” Gönen warned.
The number of virus cases may soar over the next few weeks unless people change their attitude and act more watchfully, cautioned Professor Osman Erk from the Istanbul University Medical School.
“We have been warning people to keep away from indoor places but apparently all in vain. Streets were full of people and cars this weekend. People also are not using face masks properly,” he added.
Professor Mehmet Ceyhan, an expert in infectious diseases, partially linked the recent rise in cases in Istanbul to peoples’ mobility between the provinces in the Black Sea region and the city.
“Thousands of people travel from this region to Istanbul every day. The real picture will emerge three weeks later, a further rise in infections in Istanbul will be inevitable,” Ceyhan said.
Some of the provinces in the Black Sea region have the highest infection rates in the country.