Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has announced that there has been close to a threefold increase in the highly contagious Delta variant in Turkey, warning of a fourth wave of COVID-19 sweeping across the country.
Koca said 750 people in 36 provinces have been diagnosed with the Delta variant so far, compared to 284 in 30 provinces last week. His remarks came following a Cabinet meeting on Monday.
The minister said although a drop was expected in the overall number of coronavirus infections over the last year, there had been a 20 percent increase at the weekend.
Turkey reported 5,404 coronavirus infections on Monday, with 49 people dying of the virus in the past 24 hours. The number of cases was around 4,500 a week before.
Koca said the rise in the number of infections is mostly taking place in provinces with low vaccination rates, particularly those in eastern and southeastern Turkey.
“There is no fourth wave right now, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be. The only way to prevent it is through vaccinations and herd immunity,” said Koca, adding that when 70 or 80 percent of the population develops immunity against the coronavirus, the pandemic will end and normalcy will return.
Despite growing concerns about the Delta variant, Turkey has been gradually reopening after going through its first full national lockdown in late April.
Delta, first identified in India, has the potential “to be more lethal because it’s more efficient in the way it transmits between humans and it will eventually find those vulnerable individuals who will become severely ill, have to be hospitalized and potentially die,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said during a recent news conference.