Virus variants spreading in Turkey, warn experts
“We have detected the U.K and South African variants, but we also know that there are variants of the virus with origins in Turkey itself,” said Prof. Dr. Hasan Tezer from the Health Ministry’s Science Board, noting that some 400 people across the country have contracted the virus variants.
He added that the impact of those variants is yet to be seen, but warned the number of infections may increase in the period ahead.
The spread of the virus variants varies across the regions, Tezer said.
According to Professor Levent Akın, also a member of the Science Board, the variants have been detected in at least 33 provinces to date, but authorities are working to see whether they are present in other parts of the country.
“The number of the provinces with virus variants may increase because intercity travel is continuing unhindered,” Akın warned.
“People keep traveling between the provinces to visit their friends and relatives, thus we are worried that the virus variants may spread fast,” he said.
Turkey’s health system, for now, is able to handle the outbreak, but the variant-related cases are on the rise and more efforts are needed to stem their spread, Akın stressed.
Professor Mustafa Necmi İlhan, a member of the Health Ministry’s Social Sciences Board, however, offered a more damning picture.
“The virus variants may have spread to all parts of the country,” İlhan said, suggesting that the virus variants could be the reason behind a recent spike in the number of daily infections.
He also suggested a link between people’s complacent behavior and the rise in the cases.
“Despite all the warnings from the authorities, people are still gathering in homes and shops on weekends, which cause more infections,” İlhan said.
The effects of weekend gatherings are seen in the data the Health Ministry provides, according to İlhan.
“The number of daily cases gradually rises starting from Tuesdays and Wednesdays, reflecting the impact of those weekend gatherings.”
The government imposed weeknight curfews and full lockdowns on weekends in December 2020 to bring the outbreak under control. However, on average 30,000 people break those curfews and lockdowns each week.
Experts are warning that the public tends to ignore the restrictions and other rules, such as social distancing and wearing face masks, since the start of the mass vaccination on Jan. 14 against COVID-19, with a false sense of security.
The jab developed by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac has been administered to nearly 3.9 million people, mostly health workers and the elderly.