A midterm holiday, set to start this Friday, may be a relief for millions of students but it also renewed fears about the course of coronavirus pandemic. Experts believe that higher mobility during the two-week holiday, when a large number of people are expected to visit their hometowns or vacation resorts, will carry the wave of infections to cities with less cases. By late February, the number of cases is predicted to peak in the country, Trend reports citing Daily Sabah.
Turkey is already going through a new wave in the pandemic, as the number of daily cases has reached record levels over the past two weeks. The surge is largely blamed on omicron, a fast-spreading variant. Though it is less fatal than previous variants, this incarnation of the virus is still capable of affecting the population.
Currently, most cases are concentrated in the big cities of Turkey's west, such as Istanbul, which reported more than 1,200 cases per 100,000 people in the first week of January. With more people leaving for their hometowns in the inner parts of Anatolia from cities in the west for the holiday, omicron, more prevalent in the west, is expected to hit the Anatolian provinces. Currently, some cities in central Turkey are faring relatively better in terms of the number of cases while the lowest number of cases are in eastern Turkey.
Projections show that Turkey will exceed 100,000 daily cases in February, from around and below 70,000. The silver lining for the country is the fact that in the pandemic, a peak is followed by numbers plateauing – but this subsequent period is uncertain, as experts say it depends on the vaccination rate. Booster shots are recommended by health authorities for full protection against omicron and other variants. Currently, more than 23.7 million people have had their three doses of vaccines across the country. The number is low compared to overall numbers of doses administered since the start of vaccination program in January 2021. Nearly 140 million doses of vaccines have been administered so far. Though the vaccination program was opened up for almost all eligible groups, anti-vaxxers and vaccine hesitancy prevails in the country, with the Health Ministry running awareness campaigns and deploying health care crews to convince more to take up their jabs.
Vaccination is essential for the country, which lifted most of its pandemic-related restrictions, including curfews, last year. Only protective masks and social distancing, as well as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for entrance to some venues for the unvaccinated, remain in place. The government ruled out a reinstatement of restrictions while health authorities say that although the case numbers are high, hospitalizations are still low.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reiterated his call for booster shots in Tuesday to tackle the pandemic. In a written statement after a meeting of his ministry's Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, Koca said they were considering "special measures" for places under COVID-19 risk though he did not elaborate on exactly what this meant. Koca said that half of the daily number of cases originated in Istanbul, while a majority of cases reported in the last week were among those between the ages of 20 and 34. He said only 1.45% of active cases were hospitalized, but that this rate was higher among people at the age range of 65 and above. He highlighted that people in that age group remain under the highest risk from coronavirus. He said it was of critical importance to get them vaccinated with booster shots.