Istanbul, İstiklal Avenue during the pandemic

Coronavirus infections multiply by 8 in a month

The end of restrictions and the rejection of more vaccines are triggering infections, but “the virus continues evolving,” experts warn.

Coronavirus infections have multiplied by 8 in just one month in Turkey, according to the latest data from the Health Ministry of this country, where in the last week more than 57,000 positive cases and 25 deaths have been registered, while experts already alert of the arrival of a new wave of the pandemic that will catch many people even without booster vaccinations.

The most recent data from the ministry indicate that in the week from June 27 to July 3, 57,113 people infected with coronavirus were registered in Turkey: that is, eight times more when compared to the 7,322 people who had tested positive in the week from May 30 to June 5, in which there were also 19 deaths from COVID-19.

Health experts have been warning for weeks that the country could face a new wave of the pandemic and that real infections are greater than those detected; a large part of the population has stopped taking protective measures after the authorities decreed at the end of May the end of mandatory mask on public transport, leaving its use restricted to hospitals.

Many people have assumed that the pandemic is over and have also stopped applying precautions such as social distance, avoiding crowded and closed spaces, or hands hygiene; and besides there is another problem specific to Turkey: the number of Turkish citizens who have received the third booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine has hardly changed in recent months, and remains around 27 million for a total population close to 85 million inhabitants, which means that many vaccines have lost their effectiveness against the virus.

“The virus continues evolving”

Alpay Azap, a member of the Ankara University School of Medicine as well as the Board of Directors of the Turkish Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, stressed in statements to the Anatolia news agency that the new variants BA.4 and BA.5 are behind the exponential increase in infections, to which must be added “the feeling among the population that the pandemic is over, so they do not comply with the protection measures.”

“However – he added – the pandemic is not over, as the World Health Organization and the scientific communities have been reminding us for the last two months. The virus continues evolving, and there is a new wave caused by the subtypes of the Omicron variant,” said Azap, who emphasized that these new variants are proving to be stronger against the immunity provided by vaccines or by having got COVID.

The added danger now is that, with more spread due to the total relaxation of restrictions, the risk of contagion increases but also that of mutation of the virus. “Although there is mild symptomatology in people with the complete vaccination schedule and among young people, the effects are serious in people without vaccines and in the elderly, in patients with chronic diseases, and in immunosuppressed people,” he warned.

Last week the WHO warned that coronavirus infections have multiplied throughout the world, increasing by 30% in just two weeks, also warning that the BA.4 and BA.5 variants are causing “new waves” in Europe and America. One consequence, underlines the WHO, is that each wave of the virus is leaving more people with side effects or with persistent COVID, which is not only having an impact on affected patients and their social, family and work environment, but ” it also adds an extra burden to health systems, the economy of States and societies in the medium-long term”.