Virus cases on the decline in Istanbul, İzmir: Minister
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has been declining in Istanbul and İzmir, two of Turkey’s most populous cities, but there has been an increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in certain provinces in the country’s Central Anatolia as well as eastern and southeastern regions, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said.
The minister noted that the capital Ankara had seen a rise in the virus cases in the past couple of days, but the daily cases dropped again as of June 10.
The spike in confirmed cases in the provinces in the Central Anatolia, eastern and southeastern regions occurred particularly after June 1 and the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of May, Koca explained.
Turkey moved to the normalization phase on June 1, followed by more steps to ease restrictions. Restaurants, cafes, parks, barbershops, and shopping centers resumed activities under the normalization plan.
“This rise is partially related to higher mobility but also stemmed from the fact that people fail to follow rules regarding face masks, hygiene and social distancing. In Diyarbakır [in southeastern Turkey], the daily number of cases increased to as much as 100. What lies behind is mainly social events, such as engagement ceremonies,” the minister said.
Thanks to the confinement measures, the infection rate has been declined by 50 percent for people aged over 65, Koca also informed.
“Following stay-at-home orders for those over the age of 65 years, the rate of COVID-19 infection in this age group declined by 50 percent,” he said.
Turkey will start antibody tests in the country’s 81 provinces on June 15, said Professor Seçil Özkan at the Health Ministry’s Science Board.
“Health crews will visit nearly 153,000 households to collect blood samples from one person from each family,” she said.
The antibody tests will help see the immunity level among the public and provide useful information in the fight against the coronavirus, Özkan added.
Minister briefs WHO on virus measures
In the meantime, Koca on June 10 briefed a World Health Organization (WHO) director about the measures adopted nationwide to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Data was also shared at the online meeting between Koca and WHO's Europe head Hans Kluge, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Congratulating Turkey on the success it has made in curbing the virus, Kluge said he will visit Turkey once international travel restrictions are lifted.
Sharing the latest figures, Koca compared the case-count during the lockdown period and after it was lifted.
"While the number of patients in intensive care unit was around 200 in April, today it is around 50," Koca said, stressing the country used digitalization in health to its advantage.
Kluge said they were closely following Turkey's experience regarding the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that is believed to treat COVID-19 by some practitioners.
However, he said, they are also looking forward to seeing scientific studies on it.
"I want to thank Turkey once again for universal health coverage provided to the refugees," Kluge added.