Virus variants account for most COVID-19 cases in Turkey
More transmittable virus variants are now accounting for 80 percent of all COVID-19 cases across Turkey, which has been experiencing a significant surge in the number of infections over the past weeks.
The rate is around 70 percent for Istanbul, the country’s largest city by population, which was once the epicenter of the outbreak in Turkey.
Amid the surge in the virus cases, hospitalizations have also been on the rise, and if necessary measures are not taken, then the intensive care units could be overwhelmed within two weeks, experts warned.
Officials also blamed the delay in vaccinations against COVID-19 in the recent spike in the virus cases.
Initial inoculation plans had forecast that some 20 million doses should have been administered by now but the deadline for meeting this objective has been pushed back by some one to one and a half months due to the delay.
Turkey rolled out its vaccination program on Jan. 14, starting with health care workers and the elderly.
To date, more than 14.8 million doses have been administered, with some 8.3 million people having received the first dose of the jab developed by the Chinese pharmaceuticals company Sinovac. Over 6.5 million have received both doses.
Turkey has recently expanded the scope of the vaccination drive by including people aged 60 and above and their spouses, along with some risk groups, in the program.
The virus cases may start to decline in the second half of April, and the country may take some sigh of relief in May as new vaccines are deployed.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced last week that a total of 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive in Turkey by the end of May.
The country already received 1.4 million Pfizer/BioNTech jabs, and the figure will reach 4.5 million by April, Koca said.
Meanwhile, experts are analyzing the reasons behind the sharp increase in virus cases in provinces in the country’s Black Sea region.
For instance, Samsun had the highest number of cases at 508 per 100,000 people, according to the latest weekly data the Health Ministry announced for March 13 and March 19. The rate was 356 for Ordu and 309 for Sinop. The number of cases per 100,000 people was 246 in Trabzon.
The U.K variant accounted for 80 percent of cases in Sinop, said experts, adding that people aged over 65 are largely avoiding vaccination in Trabzon. “That is why intensive care units are full of elderly people in hospitals in Trabzon,” they told daily Milliyet.
Experts also pointed at the fact that people in the region frequently travel between the cities and villages and continue to gather in homes, paying visits, or attending social events such as birthdays and other celebrations, which spread the virus among the population in the region.
“Particularly in Samsun and Trabzon, COVID-19 patients do not provide information about their contracts. Thus, people with the virus but showing no symptoms are freely venturing out,” they said.