COVID-19 pandemic: Turkey rushed to return to normal life? | Europe and Europeans: news and analytics | >

Turkish doctors have criticized the authorities’ announced drastic easing of coronavirus restrictions effective July 1. “While the rest of the world will soon be on its way to a new lockdown, we are doing the exact opposite,” said > Bulent Ertogrul, head of the Turkish Association for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. For a week now, the country has canceled the curfew, restrictions on movement, the companies returned to work as usual.

The daily life of the population in Turkey has almost returned to the state before the coronavirus pandemic, only the requirement to wear masks and maintain social distance remains from the restrictions, says Ertogrul. In his opinion, the authorities in Ankara lifted most of the restrictions too early.

The tough measures introduced in the country in April had the expected effect. In recent weeks, the number of newly diagnosed cases of coronavirus infection has been steadily decreasing, the infection rate per week per 100 thousand inhabitants, as of July 6, dropped to 30. In April, it reached 850 in the country’s largest city, Istanbul, and in the country as a whole every day recorded up to 63 thousand people infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Slow vaccination of the population

Many doctors criticize the government’s decision due to the fact that in Turkey, less than 18 percent of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In their opinion, this figure is too low for a return to normal life. However, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced last week that Turks who have received two shots of the vaccine will soon be able to register for a booster vaccination.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan being vaccinated against coronavirus

“It all depends on how quickly we can get sufficient volumes of vaccine. If everyone who wants to get the first shot in July, and soon after that the second shot, then maybe we will be able to reduce the risk (of a new wave of pandemic. – Ed.). If we fail, then really hard times will come, “Ertrogul warned.

In assessing the actions of the authorities, the deputy head of the Turkish Association of Doctors, Ali Ihsan Okten, agrees with Ertrogul: “We can cope with the delta variant of the coronavirus if we strengthen precautions and accelerate the pace of vaccination.” Otherwise, in the fall, the rates of coronavirus infections will inevitably begin to grow, says Okten.

The spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus

Doctors are concerned about the fact that the delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading in the country. This variant was identified in 26 provinces of the country last week, according to the Ministry of Health. Moreover, more than half of all new cases of infection with the delta variant occur in Istanbul. Some health experts believe that the Chinese SinoVac vaccine, which is mainly used in the country, is not effective enough against the new coronavirus mutation.

Turkish resort of Fethiye on the Aegean Sea

Turkish resort of Fethiye on the Aegean Sea

The Turkish government, lifting most of the restrictions since July 1, is trying to revive the economy, which is not in the best condition. In particular, tourism is one of the main sectors of the country’s economy, which, due to the pandemic in 2020, found itself in crisis. 15.8 million tourists visited the country last year, down 70 percent from 2019, according to the Turkish statistical office.

Travel agencies do not expect big revenues this year either. Due to the pandemic, the tourist season began very late. If, due to the measures introduced by the authorities, the number of people infected with the coronavirus begins to grow sharply again, as experts predict, then the vacation season may end in early autumn.

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