COVID-19 resurgence in Turkey raises concerns as schools prepare to open

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Health professionals have urged people to get their vaccinations and comply with preventative measures, drawing attention to the rising the COVID-19 cases and deaths in Turkey as the country prepares to reopen its schools, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ümit Savaşçı, a specialist in infectious diseases from the Gülhane Teaching and Research Hospital at the University of Health Sciences, said there has been a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases over the last 15 days mainly because of people who are not vaccinated.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by 17,332 and the country registered 255 more deaths in the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data released on Sunday.

The country’s daily infections were fewer than 5,000 per day in early July, when the government eased pandemic restrictions on the population.

“Given the breakdown of cases by age group, there are many cases in people aged 40 and below. Moreover, people aged 65 and over who have received only two doses [of China’s Sinovac vaccine] have started to show up in intensive care,” he said.

In the early stages of its vaccination campaign, Turkey used CoronaVac, developed by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, to vaccinate people aged 65 and over as well as health professionals, but the Chinese vaccine was later found to have limited efficacy against the coronavirus, and Turkish health authorities decided to inoculate these people with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as a booster shot.

Turkey has administered over 93 million vaccinations since launching a campaign in January. To date, 47.7 million people have received their first doses, while more than 36.6 million have received two or more shots, according to the ministry.

Noting that school will start on Sept. 6, Savaşçı said masks and hygiene should be emphasized, adding that students should not eat or remove their masks on school buses.

Natural ventilation should be preferred to air-conditioning and frequent contact areas should be disinfected, Savaşçı cautioned.

Savaşçı indicated that there were 18 to 20 year olds in intensive care and that the number of cases among children has increased.

“If we want to protect children below 12, we have to increase immunity in the society to the highest level possible,” Savaşçı said. “We have to abide by the rules and get our vaccinations.”

Pediatrician Hülya Çarman recommended that children aged 12 to 16 and those with chronic diseases should get at least their first dose of the vaccine before school starts as approved by the Health Ministry.

“If they are entitled by their age and if they do not have a known allergic reaction, I strongly recommend that children get vaccinated,” she said.

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines on Sunday announced that passengers traveling on domestic flights would be required to provide a negative PCR test or proof of vaccination, the Ahval news website reported on Monday, citing a Twitter message by the airline’s CEO Bilal Ekşi.

Earlier this month, Turkey announced it would require unvaccinated people to present negative PCR tests to attend social events, such as concerts, or to enter public venues, including cinemas and theaters, as of Sept. 6.

In mid-August the Health Ministry announced that health workers and priority groups were eligible to receive a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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