Virus cases in schools not alarming, says education minister
The number of coronavirus cases reported in Turkey’s schools is not at alarming levels, Education Minister Mahmut Özer has said, reiterating that all measures will be taken to ensure face-to-face education is maintained.
Schools will not close again even if the number of cases rise, Özer said in an interview on Sept. 30 on private broadcaster CNN Türk.
The minister recalled that authorities’ assessments as to whether in-class education continue are not based on the pandemic outlook in a province or a district in a province but based on the number of cases reported in a classroom.
Since face-to-face education resumed in Turkey’s 71,320 schools with 850,000 classrooms, lessons temporarily suspended and resumed again in only 5,900 classrooms, Özer furthered, citing data that some 2 percent of schools in the U.S. are closed, which is lower than the initial expectations.
Some 18 million students and over 1 million teachers returned to schools for in-class education on Sept. 6 after nearly an 18-month break.
Recently, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that a quarter of all active cases in Turkey were in the 5-17 age group.
Considering that this group is not included in the vaccination program to a large extent, this was not unexpected, according to Koca.
Özer dismissed claims that the reopening of schools is the reason behind a recent rise in the coronavirus cases across the country.
“There is no scientific study suggesting a connection between the resumption of in-class education and a rise in COVID-19 cases,” he said, adding that if schools remained closed, Turkish citizens could have seen much higher daily infections.
“Schools are the safest places because the anti-virus rules are implemented in the strictest way in schools,” Özer noted.
Some 92 percent of teachers have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine while 83 percent have been given both doses, according to the minister. “Another 5 percent have had COVID, thus around 88 percent of all teachers are either fully vaccinated or have developed immunity against the virus. The vaccination rate among teachers is above the nation’s average.”
To date, more than 109 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Turkey.
Nearly, 72 percent of the population aged 18 and above - or some 45 million people - have been given two doses of the jab while close to 54 million people - or around 87 percent of the adult population - have received their first doses. Additionally, more than 10 million people have been given the third shot of the vaccine.