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Scientists urge further COVID-19 measures in Turkey as daily cases exceed 50,000

People wearing protective masks shop at a local market, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Ankara on February 22, 2021. Ankara residents shop in the open markets although more and more Turks are finding it difficult to cope with growing poverty and the sometimes daily rise in prices. Adem ALTAN / AFP

The Turkish Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (KLİMİK) has recommended five additional measures against the coronavirus in a written statement, noting that Turkey has been reporting one of the highest number of daily cases globally for the last two weeks.

KLİMİK, where Prof. Dr. Alpay Azap and Prof. Dr. Serap Yavuz Şimşek – members of the scientific board advising Turkish government on COVID-19 – serve as board chairman and secretary-general, underlined that Turkey’s COVID-19 transmission classification is determined by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be “community transmission.”

Among the measures advised by the scientists are staying at home and limiting social interaction with people other than one’s own household, maximizing support and safety measures for workers in designated sectors such as healthcare and food, the closing down of non-critical businesses or having their employees work remotely and banning visitation to all nursing homes in the country.

“We are in a situation where the pandemic is spreading uncontrollably, and our healthcare system is having a hard time dealing with the burden. We advise the immediate and strict implementation of all of the measures [against coronavirus] since it is very hard to curb the spread of the pandemic at this stage,” the scientists warned.

Their statement came after Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), called on the country’s Coronavirus Scientific Board members to be brave and speak up about the course of the disease in Turkey and inform the citizens better.

“Our Coronavirus Scientific Board has been taken hostage. They are the hostage of one person. They have reached a point where they are unable to do their job,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in an apparent reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Meanwhile, Reşat Bahat, chairman of Turkey’s Foundation for Private Hospitals and Health Organizations (OHSAD), told the Dünya daily that private hospitals are running out of available beds and healthcare workers and therefore may not be able to sustain their support for the Turkish government’s battle with COVID-19 for much longer.

“Private hospitals, too, have limits. The latest data show that we are running out of human resources and beds. Therefore, I urge citizens to behave more responsibly. The intensive care units are currently operating at 65 percent capacity, which is critical,” Bahat stated.

He explained that for intensive care units, working at above 80 percent capacity means working at full capacity since time is needed to disinfect the bed before someone else is able to use it, and that prevents people from receiving immediate treatment.

According to a report by Hürriyet daily on Monday, 25 percent of people in Turkey who are eligible have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus so far, mainly due to fear and anti-vaccination movements, while experts have been calling on the public to make sure they get vaccinated when their turn comes.

Official data show that Turkey has administered nearly 19 million vaccinations since it began a mass COVID-19 vaccination drive in early January. More than 11.2 million people have received their first dose, while over 7.6 million are fully vaccinated.

The country reported 50,678 infections on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to more than 3.8 million since the outbreak of the pandemic on March 11, 2020. The death toll, meanwhile, stands at 33,939.

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