COVID-19 case numbers drop to early-pandemic levels in Turkey

COVID-19 case numbers drop to early-pandemic levels in Turkey

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen highs and lows in Turkey since the first infection was detected in March 2020. But nowadays, it seems closer to the end than ever..

OVID-19 case numbers have hit early-pandemic levels in Turkey, data from the Ministry of Health showed on Sunday.

According to official data, Turkey registered 4,086 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours on Saturday.

The exhaustive list of case numbers on the Health Ministry’s website shows Turkey registered less than 10,000 daily cases in early April for the first time since July 2021, as they steadily dropped to 4,000 later on.

The Health Ministry said 19 virus-related fatalities and 13,561 recoveries were also recorded over the past day, while 162,253 tests were done.

“We are going back to the days when you did not know who Fahrettin Koca is,” the minister, who became a household name in Turkey during the pandemic, recently quipped, referring to the rapidly-dropping case numbers.

Nevertheless, authorities still emphasize adhering to social distancing rules and mask-wearing when necessary.

“Make no mistake, the pandemic is not over” is the common opinion of health experts, but they are more optimistic about the decline of coronavirus cases.

The long days of summer may be a cure, so to speak, to further decrease the number of cases, as has been the trend in the past two years.

The sudden change in the situation is no miracle for Turkey, which strived to keep the cases at a minimum at the cost of damage to the economy and collective mental fatigue with bans constricting daily life. Combined with a natural switch of the virus to the less lethal strain omicron, which has dominated the cases in Turkey since last year, the restrictions, as well as mass vaccination, paid off in the long run.

To counter the spread of the virus, Turkey has administered over 147.32 million COVID-19 vaccine doses since it launched an immunization drive in January 2021.

Over 57.8 million people have received the first dose, while more than 53 million are fully vaccinated.

In December, The Health Ministry started offering the fifth booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines for a specific group of people.

Individuals who received two doses of the Chinese Sinovac and two doses of the BioNTech vaccine at least three months ago will be able to get an appointment for the fifth dose.

They will be able to receive the Sinovac, BioNTech or the domestically developed Turkovac vaccines as a booster.

Turkovac is now available to the public after receiving emergency use approval. City hospitals became the first venues for inoculation with Turkovac, and the vaccination program with the local jab has expanded to all hospitals and other venues.

Turkey jumped into action after the first coronavirus case was reported in March 2020 and launched studies to develop its first vaccine to combat the outbreak.

Among the vaccine studies supported by the Presidency of Turkish Health Institutes (TÜSEB) and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK), the inactive vaccine developed by Erciyes University showed the fastest progress.

While the development process for Turkovac began in April last year, the preclinical stages, where animal trials were conducted, were successfully concluded in October 2020.

Phase 1 studies for the vaccine kicked off the following month and it was administered to 44 volunteers. Phase 2 studies were launched on Feb. 10, 2021, with 250 volunteers. With both phases showing positive data, authorities moved on to Phase 3 of the development process.

As part of the Phase 3 studies, the first dose of the vaccine was administered on June 22, 2021, in a program in which Erdoğan participated and announced the name of the vaccine – Turkovac.

Thousands of volunteers, who had not been infected with COVID-19 or had gotten vaccinated before, were given Turkovac as part of the Phase 3 studies.

In October this year, Turkovac was administered as a booster shot. Volunteers who previously received two doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine were given Turkovac or Sinovac, depending on their personal preference.

Experts also hope that the domestically developed vaccine will eliminate vaccine hesitancy in the country.

The state of Turkish hospitals also appears to be a harbinger of good times to come. Once brimming with patients fighting for their lives and staff in full protective gear, coronavirus wards are mostly empty and intensive care units are hosting fewer coronavirus patients.

It has been two years since Turkey faced the steep risk of the coronavirus, with the number of cases snowballing. The country was forced to build new hospitals in Istanbul exclusively to handle the mounting number of cases. For months, health care workers were forced to work long shifts with no contact with their families.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s most populated city, which was also the city with the highest number of cases once, local health authorities hail the current state of the pandemic. The city now has only about 196 cases per every 100,000 people, according to the figures from the last week of March. Moreover, most cases are patients who recover after self-isolation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also awarded Turkey for its success in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the global case tally passed 503.7 million, according to the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Since December 2019, the pandemic has claimed more than 6.19 million lives in at least 192 countries and regions.

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