Prof. Dr. Mehmet Ceyhan, the head of the Infectious Diseases Association, has warned that Turkey can turn into a hub from where COVID-19 mutant viruses spread if the country continues to ease the restrictions.
“A normalization is being talked about. Unfortunately, there is not an appropriate environment for the lifting of all measures. If we are not careful, Turkey can turn into a route through which mutant viruses spread. The number of mutant virus cases is increasing together with the daily case figures. And the lifting of measures started to contribute to this,” Ceyhan told Yasemin Salih from Dünya newspaper on March 12.
Inadequate control of travelers from abroad is the main factor that facilitates the spread of the mutant viruses, the professor said. The non-restriction of intercity travels, the relatively slow vaccine rollout, the use of ineffective viral medicine, and lifting of measures are other factors that contribute to the spread of the mutant viruses, Ceyhan said. “When we look at this picture, Turkey is doing all of them,” he said.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on March 11 that the country plans to vaccinate 50 million people against COVID-19 by autumn, however main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) MP Murat Emir said a day later that this timeline does not match the current pace of the vaccinations.
In a written statement on March 12, Emir alleged that the vaccinations of 50 million can be completed by June 2022 at the current pace.
"Up to now an average of 185,000 shots per day have been administered. At this current pace, the vaccinations of 50 million people can be completed in 540 days, meaning by June 2020," Emir said.
Koca announced on March 10 the recent rise in cases reflected a faster spread of COVID-19 variations, with more than 40,000 people infected by the variant identified in Britain, and much smaller numbers by those identified in South Africa and Brazil.
On March 2, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced an easing of measures to curb COVID-19, with a partial reopening of schools, cafes and restaurants. Turkey also eased weekend lockdowns after new cases fell below 10,000 daily.