Turkey to tighten restrictions if coronavirus increases

Restrictions against COVID-19 could be tightened if case numbers do not decrease in the coming days, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said following a Science Board meeting on April 22.

“The rate of the spread of COVID-19 infections has dropped nationwide, and we expect that due to the lockdowns and restrictions, the number of cases will also decline,” Koca said.

Noting that public complacency and the new COVID-19 variants had triggered an uptick in the number of cases, the minister said, “In the Science Board meeting, we discussed tightening restrictions if the targeted decline is not achieved.”

He also acknowledged the need to inform the public about the pandemic process.

“It is everybody’s responsibility to stay firm and fight the virus together,” he said.

Turkey ranks fourth globally in the number of daily cases based on a seven-day average, according to a Reuters tally. The government announced several new restrictions and a partial lockdown for the first two weeks of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began on April 13.

A curfew between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. is in place on weekdays, as well as full weekend lockdowns. For the present weekend lockdown, the government included Friday, April 23, which is a national holiday.

As part of the restrictions, restaurants and cafés are now only allowed to provide takeout and delivery services.

The most common variant of the coronavirus seen across the country is the U.K. variant, Koca said, adding that the new strain of COVID-19 determined in India has not yet been found in Turkey.

Turkey is currently inoculating its citizens with the Sinovac and Pfizer/BioNtech vaccines, but it will soon start offering Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine as well, the minister said.

As part of the country’s vaccination program, which began on Jan. 14, health authorities have administered nearly 21 million doses; 13 million people have received one jab, while 8 million have been given both doses.

Meanwhile, Turkey has completed its first clinical trials for a domestic COVID-19 vaccine, a doctor told Anadolu Agency.

“If there are no setbacks, the administration of the second doses will be completed in the first week of May,” said Fevzi Altuntaş, the chief physician at the Ankara Oncology Training and Research Hospital, adding that the program’s vaccine studies began about a year ago.

He said people over the age of 18 who do not have any health problems and have not had COVID-19 before can volunteer for the vaccine study.

Altuntaş said one of their volunteers in the vaccine trials was Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank.

“You may be wondering what our observation is in this process. I can say that there were no serious reactions that we saw in its reliability,” he said. “We did not encounter any serious signs and symptoms in our follow-up.”

More than 200 volunteers are required for phase 2 studies, the doctor added.

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