“The delta variant has become the dominant strain in our country, as expected. Unvaccinated people are the most defenseless, ”Prof. Afşin Emre Kayıpmaz told the Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday, urging Turkish citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“The delta variant is twice as contagious, which is of concern,” he said.
The professor also said that people infected with the delta strain are more likely to be hospitalized compared to other variants.
Emphasizing that the vaccines appear to be effective against the newer variants, Kayıpmaz also pointed out that people who refuse to be vaccinated are the most vulnerable.
“Vaccines actively protect us against the coronavirus. The risks of death, severe symptoms and hospitalization are significantly lower for fully vaccinated people, ”he added.
Adding that social distancing, mask wearing and hygiene measures should continue as before, Kayıpmaz also said that “simple precautions will also protect us from the delta variant”.
Battling the coronavirus since March 2020, Turkey is stepping up its battle against the disease, implementing a series of new restrictions that would target unvaccinated people.
“The only way to beat COVID-19 is through vaccination,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said in a statement.
“I call on every Turkish citizen to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said, later detailing the restrictions.
“During this school year, teachers and unvaccinated students will have to take two PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests every week,” he said.
“We will also bring mandatory PCR tests for flights and intercity bus trips, concerts, theaters and cinemas, where people congregate,” Erdoğan added.
From September 6, a negative PCR test will be mandatory for those who have not been vaccinated, or who have not recovered from the coronavirus, to enter concerts, cinemas and theaters, said a circular issued by the Ministry of the Interior as part of a comprehensive vaccination program continuing in the country. A similar requirement is also expected to be introduced for schools and universities as Turkey prepares to fully resume in-person teaching in early September.
Organizations and public events will be able to check visitors’ code HES (Life Fits Into Home, in Turkish “Hayat Eve Sığar”) – the coronavirus contact tracing system – whether they have been vaccinated, cured of an infection, if the person is considered scientifically immune after contracting the disease or if they have a negative PCR test dating back less than 48 hours.
“If the person has not contracted the disease, is not vaccinated or does not have a negative PCR test, they will not be allowed to participate in the event,” the statement said.
There will also be a requirement for a negative PCR test for intercity journeys by plane, bus, train or other public transport vehicles, excluding private vehicles, for people who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from a disease. infection. Those who do not meet the criteria mentioned will not be allowed on intercity journeys, he added.
The circular stressed that “the most powerful element” in the fight against the pandemic and to minimize the risk posed by the virus to public health and public order is a vaccination carried out voluntarily, as well as hygiene, the wearing a mask and respecting social norms. distancing rules.
The ministry stressed that the number of cases, patients and deaths caused by the pandemic is at low levels among those who have completed the vaccination regimen.
Turkey has administered some 88.4 million COVID-19 vaccines, mainly Sinovac’s CoronaVac and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The figures, which include the first, second and third doses, show the country has administered more doses than its population since its vaccination program began in January.
More than 45 million people have received their first doses while 34.9 million others have now received the two doses needed to protect themselves against the coronavirus. Almost 7 million additional doses or “boosters” have also been administered in the country. These third doses are needed to prolong the effectiveness of vaccines against infections, authorities said.
Turkey ranks eighth in the world for the highest number of doses according to the ourworldindata.org website, which compiles immunization figures from around the world. China tops the list with more than 1.8 billion doses, ahead of India, which administered more than 554 million doses.
Turkey recently lowered the vaccine eligibility age from 18 to 15 and started offering first doses to children aged 12 and older with chronic illnesses. It has also narrowed the gap between the last positive coronavirus test and the first dose of the vaccine a cured patient can receive, to one month.
Turkey lifted most COVID-19-related restrictions on July 1, including curfews, after the number of cases fell dramatically following a strict lockdown.
Although mandatory masks and social distancing rules remain in place, the country has recently seen an increase in the number of daily cases, linked to higher mobility after the restrictions ended. Experts say there is a false perception of “safety” among people who ditched masks after the “normalization process” began.
Authorities have repeatedly stated that they do not plan to reimpose restrictions, but have expressed determination to reach more people in the area. vaccination program.
Turkey started administering CoronaVac vaccines to healthcare workers in January and the president himself was vaccinated with the inactive vaccine. Later, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was also made available to citizens and residents.
In the meantime, work is underway on locally manufactured vaccines. Most are still in the early stages of development, but scientists hope to see results this year. Vaccines under development in the country range from an inactive vaccine to an intranasal spray and a virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters that universities and pharmaceutical companies are working hard and that he expected “mass production” to start in September or October “on the basis of what they promised “.
The country has also started to inoculate volunteers with a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Turkey.