Some 2,000-3,000 people are believed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus during the first prayers held at Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia on July 24, said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sarp Üner from the department of public health at Hacettepe University Medical School.
“President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] said that 350,000 people attended the prayers [on that day]. There were about 1,000 asymptotic patients there, based on forecasts. If we think of the transmission rate, those patients have infected 2,000-3,000 others. I believe that gathering will increase the cases in Istanbul,” Üner was quoted as saying by ANKA news agency on Aug. 8.
Erdoğan prayed with hundreds of worshipers on July 24 inside the Hagia Sophia, the first prayers since the sixth-century Byzantine landmark was converted into a mosque earlier in July.
Erdoğan was joined by other officials, including his son-in-law and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak. Only 500 people were allowed inside the Hagia Sophia as part of COVID-19 measures, while thousands more prayed outside at the Sultanahmet Square. Erdoğan at the time said that around 350,000 people attended the prayers.
Turkey’s daily COVID-19 cases have recently shown a sharp rebounding trend, with more than 1,000 daily jump in successive days. Daily COVID-19 cases had hovered just below 1,000 from July 13 until Aug. 3.
Prof. Dr. Üner warned that the daily cases will further increase in September. “People will come back from the holidays; schools will reopen; and people will be indoors more and the season of flu is on its way. A system that separates flu from the coronavirus needs to be established because they give similar symptoms. It is for sure that more difficult days are on their way for us,” Üner said.