Worst of pandemic over, says health minister

Worst of pandemic over, says health minister

Worst of pandemic over, says health minister

The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is over for Turkey, and people should not worry anymore, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said.

The Health Ministry’s Science Board, which advises the government on the pandemic, will have an important meeting next week in which members will discuss the use of face masks in schools, Koca told reporters on April 14.

There is no single COVID-19 patient in intensive care units in 804 hospitals, Koca tweeted on April 13.

“There are no [coronavirus] patients [receiving treatment] in 519 hospitals,” he added.

Turkey saw a surge in infections in February this year, with daily cases hitting a record number of 100,000 due to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The cases started to decline toward the end of February, and the downward trend continued in the following weeks. In mid-March, they fell below the 20,000 mark.

Data from the Health Ministry show that the number of daily cases in the country has remained under 10,000 since April 7, hovering around 6,000 infections. The death toll from the virus has also been on the decline. Less than 100 people each day have lost their lives because of COVID-19 since March 20.

As the pandemic situation improved, the government further relaxed the anti-virus measures in March, scrapping the outdoor mask mandate.

Meanwhile, Istanbul’s provincial health director, Professor Kemal Memişoğlu, said that the number of cases in the country’s largest city by population has declined to the lowest level since the start of the pandemic and that the further drop in cases is expected to continue in the coming months.

He recalled that the infections in the city, which is home to more than 15 million people, in the last wave of the pandemic, rose to the highest level ever because of the Omicron strain of the virus.

“Despite the spike in infections, hospitalizations were low in the city,” Memişoğlu said.

The city’s top health official predicted that the drop in cases will continue by the end of this summer. “Most probably, the pandemic will turn into an endemic within the next couple of months.”

Other experts in the country share Memişoğlu’s optimism.

“The past experience showed that the pandemic situation improves during summer months, and it is more likely to be the case this year,” said Professor Sema Turan from the Science Board.

The vaccination drive, which started in January 2021, will make a difference this summer, Turan added.

“We have a large number of people who have been vaccinated and cases declined…that’s why I am very optimistic about the pandemic situation this summer,” she said.

Since it rolled out its jab program, Turkey has administered more than 147 million vaccine doses against COVID-19. Over 53 million people have been fully inoculated, while nearly 27 million have received their booster shots. Some 58 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.