UK variant of COVID-19 found in several Turkish cities, says health minister
The U.K variant of the coronavirus has been detected in 17 provinces in Turkey, infecting at least 128 people across the country, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said.
In a tweet, Koca noted that COVID-19 variants have been a major force behind surging case numbers in Europe, reiterating his warning that the public must continue to adhere to the anti-virus measures.
“We must be vigilant against the dangers from the mutated virus. The number of people who contracted the variant of the virus has risen to 128, while the U.K variant of the infection has been found in 17 provinces,” the health minister said on Twitter on Jan. 30.
An expert, meanwhile, suggested that the virus variant could be the cause behind a recent increase in COVID-19 cases to around 7,000 daily infections from 5,000.
“We are closely monitoring the cases of mutated virus infections across the country. We are looking at the cases to determine if the cares are related to the virus variant originated from the U.K. or from South Africa,” said Professor Mustafa Naci İlhan from the Health Ministry’s Social Sciences Board.
If the variant of the virus is present in the Black Sea province of Tokat, it could easily be found in larger cities, such as Istanbul and the capital Ankara, İlhan warned.
“We now know that it [the virus variant] is in our country. There has been some 30 percent increase in the number of cases, which rose to 7,000 daily infections from their previous levels of 5,000,” he added.
İlhan, however, suggested that not only the variant of the coronavirus but other factors could have played a role in the recent spike in infections.
“People are probably gathering at weekends during the full lockdowns, the public may be acting in a more complacent manner, ignoring basic rules, such as face masks and social distancing, as the vaccination program has been rolled out,” he said.
When the daily virus cases surged, the government introduced weeknight curfews and full lockdowns on weekends in December 2020. It also restricted the operations of restaurants and cafes to takeaway and delivery services.
Turkey started its inoculation program on Jan. 14, vaccinating mostly health care professionals and the elderly.
According to data from the Health Ministry, nearly 2 million people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, brought from China.
This article originally appeared in Hurriyet Daily News on 31 Jan 2021.