Virus variants spreading fast in Turkey, says health minister

Virus variants spreading fast in Turkey, says health minister

Virus variants spreading fast in Turkey, says health minister

Virus variants of different origins have infected nearly 42,000 people in dozens of provinces in Turkey, the country’s health minister has said, warning that the new strains are spreading fast at a time when the country moved to a controlled normalization phase.

“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,” Fahrettin Koca announced on March 10, following the Health Ministry’s Science Board meeting.

The minister also warned that mutated viruses have increased the rate of the spread.

“Even though this does not affect hospitalization in a parallel way, it has the potential of [causing] more cases and more patients,” Koca said.

The bed occupancy rate in the country’s hospitals is around 52 percent while the corresponding figure for intensive care units is a little more than 62 percent, according to data from the Health Ministry.

“The number of daily cases may climb to 15,000 after mid-March and further up to around 20,000 at the start of April, and if this scenario materializes, Turkey may see the third peak of the outbreak in April,” Ümit Savaşçı from the Health Sciences University’s Gülhane Training and Research Hospital told Demirören News Agency.

A potential third peak may be avoided if the vaccination drive gathers pace and provinces ramp up measures to contain the spread of the virus, he stressed.

Savaşçı, however, warned that if the third peak really occurs, the hospitalization rates and deaths from the infections could increase significantly.

Koca also stressed that there is still no other way to fight the fast-spreading variants than measures and the vaccine, urging the public to continue to stick to the anti-virus rules.

Turkey has administered nearly 10.5 million doses of the vaccine developed by the Chinese firm Sinovac since it launched the vaccination program on Jan. 14.

More than 7.8 million people have received the first dose of the jab, while some 2.7 million people have received both doses. The infection is administered in two doses, 28 days apart.

The government last week announced the commencement of the controlled normalization, under which weekend lockdowns have been eased, and restaurants and cafés have started to welcome customers during limited business hours at a reduced capacity.