Istanbul transport amidst coronavirus pandemic

Alert in Istanbul after 85% increase in coronavirus infections

Turkey’s Health Minister affirms that coronavirus data in some districts of Istanbul “is scary”, blaming public transport.

Turkey’s Health Minister has expressed concern about the increase in coronavirus infections in Istanbul, where cases during the last week have grown by 85% compared to the average number of positives for September, thus accumulating the Turkish metropolis the 40% of all infected people in Turkey.

As Koca explained to journalists on Wednesday after the weekly meeting of the Scientific Council of Turkey – held for the first time in Istanbul – the main cause of the increase in infections in this metropolis of 16 million inhabitants is public transport, used by millions of people to commute during peak hours, where crowds gather and thus a perfect environment for the spreading of the virus is created.

“If we do not take control of the situation in Istanbul, the epidemic will be out of control,” the minister told reporters, nevertheless also pointing to another factor behind the increase in cases: the return to Istanbul of many people from the provinces of Anatolia – where cases were increasing in recent weeks – to spend the winter in the city.

Koca pointed out several districts of Istanbul where the increase in infections has increased above 100%; for example, cases have increased by 123% in Büyükçekmece, 120% in Sarıyer, and 104% in Bakırköy and Beylikdüzü. Data that, according to the minister, “are scary” and very worrying.

Every infected person in Turkey infects three others

The minister asked companies to establish several work shifts to avoid crowds of workers in public transport and at work, a measure that he also considered as a guarantee to avoid losing the entire workforce of a company in the event of a outbreak.

According to the minister, currently the SARS-CoV-2 virus is being transmitted from person to person in Turkey with a contagion rate (R0) of 3 – that is, each infected person infects another 3 – for which he urged citizens to reduce contacts and not to leave home unless necessary, as well as to strictly follow hygiene and safety measures, including the use of a mask and social distance.

Despite the worrying increase in coronavirus infections in Istanbul, the Turkish Minister of Health repeated once again that for now the government is not considering curfews and confinement measures such as those already being applied in Europe, even despite the fact that Turkey has become the 8th European country to surpass the 10,000 dead barrier. Last week Koca announced that Turkey plans to have 5 million doses of a vaccine against the virus – possibly from China, or from the Pfizer company – next December.