UK variant of COVID-19 accounts for 75 percent of infections in Turkey

The highly contagious variant first identified in the U.K. has become the predominant strain in Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on March 31. The variant now accounts for 75 percent of virus cases circulating across the nation, he said.

People wearing protective masks stroll at Eminönü district in Istanbul on March 3.

Duvar English

Turkey has so far recorded 180,448 cases of the highly contagious U.K. variant of the COVID-19 in 81 provinces, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on March 31.

“The U.K. variant makes up 75 percent of total cases in our country and it has replaced the traditional type coronavirus,” Koca said in a written statement which he shared on his Twitter account.

Turkey has also detected 169 cases of the South African strain in 11 provinces, four cases of the Brazilian variant in two provinces, and two of the California-New York strain in one province, Koca said. 

Koca also said the government was determined to vaccinate the majority of the population by the end of June.

The country has carried out 16.04 million inoculations, with 9.14 million people having received a first dose, since Jan. 14 when the nationwide rollout began.

Turkey has until now been using COVID-19 vaccines developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd and procured the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Koca that besides the SinoVac and BioNTech, Turkey has new supply sources to speed up the vaccination drive. "As a result of negotiations with different producers, Turkey soon will be able to purchase more COVID-19 vaccines," he said.

Meanwhile, the country on March 31 recorded 39,302 new COVID-19 cases, the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, Health Ministry data showed.

The latest daily death toll was 152, bringing the cumulative toll to 31,537, according to the health ministry.

The government eased measures to curb the pandemic in Turkey earlier this month, prompting a surge in new cases. On March 29, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a tightening of measures, including bringing back Saturday lockdowns for cities with highest COVID-19 risk.

The latest measures came as the number of cities under the category of "very high-risk" increased from 17 to 58 in just one month in the face of the government's "controlled normalization" process.