Current pandemic peak in Turkey 'is most severe, but restrictions insufficient'

Experts agree that Turkey's experiencing the third peak in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government's current restrictions are ineffective in fighting the spread, the daily Cumhuriyet reported on March 31. One expert said that the spread of the pandemic was back to where it was a year ago, and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca noted that the new variants of coronavirus are highly common in the country.

Duvar English - Reuters

Experts agree that Turkey is experiencing a third peak in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government's efforts to combat the spread are inefficient, the daily Cumhuriyet reported on March 31. 

"Healthcare workers are absolutely exhausted, done, hopeless. It's difficult to bring the numbers back down sooner than in two weeks, even if there's a complete lockdown," Prof. Elif Dağlı said. 

The government's current precautions are not strict enough to stop the pandemic, and it's unacceptable that the government relaxed safety measures for about two weeks, Dağlı added.

"We're hearing that we're back to where we were in the pandemic a year ago. It's predicted that the numbers will surpass the previous peaks," the expert noted. 

Turkey has recorded 37,303 new coronavirus cases in the space of 24 hours on March 30, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic more than a year ago.

The government had said on March 29 that it would tighten restrictions on movement and gatherings because of rising infections, less than a month after easing them.

The latest daily death toll was 155, bringing the cumulative toll to 31,385, according to the state data.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters in parliament that new variants of the coronavirus, which officials have blamed for the spike in infections, had now been seen in every province.

"Currently, the rate of the mutations in Turkey has reached some 75%. In some provinces, it is at around 50-55%, but there are provinces where it is at 95%," Koca said.

Opposition parties and other critics condemned President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government last week for organizing a congress for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with thousands of people, many of whom were seen violating social distancing rules, not wearing or improperly wearing masks.

Koca dismissed the criticisms and called for more vigilance from Turks. "We must show a bit more effort in protecting those in risk groups and limiting close contact. Until when? At least until vaccination is finished," he said.

Turkey has until now been using COVID-19 vaccines developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd and has carried out 15.67 million inoculations, with 8.88 million people having received the first dose, since Jan. 14 when the nationwide rollout began.