Spike in COVID-19 infections might be due to new variant specific to Turkey, warns leading scientist

The recent sharp spike in COVID-19 cases in Turkey suggests the existence of new variants specific to the country, according to a leading scientist. Prof. Gürsel of Bilkent University said that the current numbers cannot be solely explained with the U.K. variant.

Tourists are seen walking on Istanbul's famous İstikal Avenue.

Duvar English

A leading Turkish scientist has said the recent surge of COVID-19 infections suggests that there is a new variant that is specific to Turkey.

“These numbers cannot be solely explained with the U.K. variant which is 50-70 more contagious. These cases suggest that there are new variant(s) that are circulating in Turkey which are specific to us,” Prof. Dr. İhsan Gürsel wrote on Twitter.

Prof. Gürsel said that samples taken from COVID-19 patients needed to be analyzed "much faster." 

In March, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca had said that the U.K. variant accounts for 75 percent of virus cases circulating across the country. 

An innovative COVID-19 vaccine developed by Prof. Gürsel of Bilkent University in collaboration with his spouse, Prof. Mayda Gürsel of Middle East Technical University, was recently granted Phase I clinical trial approval by the Turkish Drug and Medical Device Institution (TİTCK).

The Gürsels’ project is among 17 supported by the COVID-19 Vaccine and Drug Platform of the Scientific and Technological Research of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), which is overseeing eight vaccine and nine drug studies with the aim of combatting the deadly outbreak.

Turkey reports 297 deaths due to COVID-19, highest daily level yet

Prof. Gürsel's remarks came as Turkey on April 15 recorded 297 deaths due to COVID-19, the highest daily number since the beginning of the pandemic, data from the Health Ministry showed, bringing the total toll to 35,031.

Data also showed 61,400 new cases were recorded in the same period, bringing the total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 4,086,957.

Turkey currently ranks fourth globally in the number of daily cases based on a seven-day average, according to a Reuters tally.

Earlier this week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced several new restrictions and a "partial closure" for the first two weeks of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to curb the surge in cases.