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Turkey’s health minister rules out mass vaccinations, lockdowns against new COVID variant

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Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said the country does not have any plans to introduce lockdowns or promote mass vaccination campaigns against a new variant of the coronavirus, known as the Eris variant.

Koca announced on his X social media account on Wednesday that although there are some claims about the need for mass vaccinations against the Eris variant, there is absolutely no need for it or lockdowns at the moment.

He said the government took the necessary measures during the coronavirus pandemic through vaccination campaigns and lockdowns because the coronavirus was new back then. He said the public overwhelmingly obtained immunity against the virus either by contracting it or through vaccination, hence the virus is less likely to make people ill now.

“Let me be very clear, no new measure against the COVID-19 virus [is being considered] except for the personal measures people can take themselves,” said the minister.

Koca said Turkey is fully independent in its healthcare decisions and will not be a practice field for global vaccine propaganda.

He said there is no need for mass vaccination against the COVID-19 virus supported by science, adding that science and healthcare cannot be the subject of marketing.

The minister’s remarks came at a time when some countries like the United States have already begun to offer updated vaccines designed to protect against the new variant.

Last month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended everyone six months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the potentially serious outcomes of COVID-19 illness this fall and winter.

In a statement on Sept.15, Koca said on X that nine people in the country had been infected with the Eris variant; they were all in the same province and had contact with people from abroad.

The minister attracted some criticism from X users, who accused the minister of poorly managing the coronavirus pandemic and now downplaying the seriousness of the new variant without being aware of how fast it spreads.

WHO classified Eris as “a variant of interest,” indicating that it should be more closely watched than others because of mutations that might make it more contagious or severe.

Turkey’s Health Ministry has not released the updated numbers of people who have been infected with the Eris variant or the course of their disease.

The first detected Covid case was announced on March 11, 2020 in Turkey although there was strong suspicion that the virus arrived there much earlier.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government was criticized for lacking transparency in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with the credibility of the country’s official coronavirus numbers called into question many times after the pandemic broke out.

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