Provinces to step up vigilance amid rise in virus variant cases
Turkey’s Health Ministry has urged the utmost vigilance in all provinces amid a spike in COVID-19 variant-related infections, announcing a raft of measures to combat the spread of the disease.
The ministry issued a directive to the governors’ offices in 81 provinces, detailing actions needed to be taken against the virus shortly after Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said variants of different origin had already infected nearly 42,000 people in dozens of provinces.
According to the ministry’s directive, people will be asked to provide a valid HES code, which is an application tracking virus contacts, before they can enter public spaces, including workplaces.
Shopping centers, marketplaces, banks and post offices will have signs showing the number of people to be allowed inside the premises at a time.
All private and public hospitals will review their pandemic preparedness plans and all schools will be inspected.
Inspections will be tightened in the neighborhoods where the infections show a rapid increase.
The public will be informed about the risks from large gatherings through media and social media outlets.
The Istanbul Governor’s Office announced that it will be compulsory to show a HES code to enter most public spaces and all state buildings from March 15 onward.
All state buildings, including schools, and public spaces in the city, such as libraries, sport centers, wedding halls, barbers, game halls and cafes, will ask for the HES code.
“A total of 41,488 cases of the U.K. variant of the coronavirus in 76 provinces, 61 cases of the South African variant in nine provinces, two cases of the California-New York variant, and a case of the Brazilian variant in a province have been detected so far,” Koca said on March 10.
Turkey recently has moved to the controlled normalization phase, under which weekend lockdowns have been eased and restaurants and cafés have started to welcome customers during limited business hours at a reduced capacity on a province-based approach.
As part of the easing, the authorities also removed the ban which required intercity buses to operate at 50 percent seat capacity.
Turkey plans to vaccinate 50 million people against COVID-19 by autumn, Koca said in a speech on March 11, marking the anniversary of the first case recorded in the country.
“Once the vaccination program is completed, new cases will be reduced to one-fifth and there will barely be patients in critical condition. The pandemic will no longer be a heavy burden for us,” the minister said.
Turkey is among the fastest nations in procuring vaccine supplies with a 50-million-dose agreement with manufacturers in China, he added.
The country will start human trials on five more local vaccine candidates soon and will use its own vaccine in the near future, Koca also said.
Turkey launched the rollout of COVID-19 shots developed by China’s Sinovac on Jan. 14.
Nearly 10.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered under the inoculation program. Some 8 million people have received the first dose of the jab while close to 2.9 million people have received both doses.
Turkey may buy 50M more virus jabs from China: President
Turkey may receive a second shipment of 50 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from China if the countries reach an agreement, said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 12.
"A second shipment may arrive from China. If we agree on that matter, we can purchase an additional 50 million [doses] from China," he told reporters in Istanbul after Friday prayers.
On restrictions and measures taken against the coronavirus, he said: "The fluctuating appearance of the [COVID-19] strains necessarily make it difficult for us to make decisions."
He also said the country would continue to ease coronavirus restrictions but added the priority remains the "well-being of our citizens."
On other vaccine purchases, Erdoğan said Turkey's agreements with China and Germany are ongoing, adding that there are ongoing talks with Russia towards an agreement.