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Opposition leader slams Turkish government for shortage of COVID-19, influenza vaccines

Turkey's former Economy Minister Ali Babacan has become the chair of a new party he founded in March 2020.

Ali Babacan, leader of the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), has criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for failing to provide the necessary number of coronavirus and influenza vaccine doses for the country.

Speaking at his party’s 1st Ordinary Konya Provincial Congress on Friday, Babacan said Turkey needs at least 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, while the AKP government has announced plans to purchase only 11 million so far.

“Experts say we need at least 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to develop immunity to the disease. So far, they [the AKP] have ordered 10 million doses developed by a Chinese company, the effects of which are not yet entirely known, along with 1 million doses of Turkey’s locally made vaccine.”

The opposition leader said the AKP government’s mismanagement of the economy is negatively affecting attempts to procure the necessary amount of vaccine.

Babacan also noted that developed countries had already reserved hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines, while Turkey was still unable to vaccinate people over 65 or younger than 5 and people with chronic diseases against influenza.

“Unfortunately, the Turkish government was late in taking action for the procurement of coronavirus vaccines, and that’s because the treasury is empty because of them. Developed countries have already started buying and reserving vaccines, with the UK ordering 145 million doses. Turkey, however, is still unable to vaccinate even high risk groups against the seasonal flu.”

Referring to a recent regulation from the Health Ministry, Babacan added: “And now they are denying testing for people who have been in contact with persons who tested positive for the coronavirus if they don’t exhibit symptoms, and as a result, are detecting far fewer cases. How will they prevent COVID-19 from spreading without identifying people who show no symptoms?”

Turkey, which announced its first COVID-19 case on March 11, had not publicly reported confirmed coronavirus cases in people without symptoms until Wednesday as part of a policy widely criticized for hiding the true scope of the outbreak.

The Health Ministry announced 29,845 COVID-19 patients on Friday, with the daily coronavirus death toll in the country over the past 24 hours standing at 177.

Turkey’s AKP government refuses to take strict preventative measures to contain the pandemic despite a surge in the number of coronavirus infections in the country. A series of measures were introduced on November 17, including restricting cafes and restaurants to takeaway service and partial curfews, which were criticized as being ambiguous and insufficient.

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