Turkey seeking to return to ‘normal,’ says minister
The daily number of coronavirus cases dropped from record highs of over 60,000 to below 10,000 in Turkey thanks to the full lockdown and other restrictions and the decline in infections is expected to continue, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said following the Science Board meeting on May 21.
“We need to keep those gains in the period ahead. People are now aware how the virus spreads. We want to return to normal in this period by easing bans, intensifying individual protection and ramping up the vaccination drive,” Koca said.
He also noted that the Health Ministry’s Science Board, which advises the government on the pandemic, is looking for ways to make it possible.
“The board is working on a plan regarding the relevant sectors as to what kind of normalization could take place in June,” Koca said.
The board’s recommendations will take shape next week, according to the minister.
He stressed that the consensus is not to resort to lockdowns but to emphasize people taking their own precautions and accelerating vaccinations.
They aim to gradually expand the scope of the inoculation program by covering more age groups until June, Koca noted.
“If there are no vaccine supple problems, we want to start vaccinating people aged as low as 20 in June.”
Turkey is currently vaccinating people aged over 55, as well as groups under risk, such as health workers, members of the police force and security officials, the minister reminded.
He pointed that the vaccination rate among people aged over 65 is 84 percent, but the rate should climb up to at least 90 percent.
The minister stressed that Turkey has the potential to vaccinate more than 1.5 million people per day.
As far as work on the development of the local vaccine is concerned, Koca said that phase three studies for the indigenous jab could start in early June.
If the studies conclude successfully, national vaccines may be used with an emergency use approval by September, Koca added.
Meanwhile, Uğur Şahin, the founder of BioNTech, also attended the Board’s online meeting.
“We want to deliver 30 million doses of the vaccine to Turkey by the end of June,” he said.
Şahin also noted that the Pfizer/BioNTech jab has been proven effective against 30 variants of COVID-19.
“We also tested the Indian mutation this week. Our vaccine has 25-30 percent efficiency against the Indian variant. We expect 70-75 percent protection from infection,” he said.