coronavirus, PCR test

Turkey stops requiring PCR tests for unvaccinated, except on flights

Turkish government has given instructions to stop requiring PCR tests from unvaccinated to attend events or travel, except on flights.

Turkey has stopped requiring PCR tests for people not vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend events with public or to travel on public transport; however, the requirement to take the test to travel by plane remains for those who are not vaccinated or who have not received the complete vaccination schedule against COVID-19.

In an official circular issued on January 15 by the Interior Ministry, the governors of the 81 provinces of Turkey were instructed to stop requiring a PCR test for people who are not vaccinated or who do not have the complete vaccination schedule, as well as those who have not been infected by the coronavirus in the last 180 days, in case they want to use buses, trains or other similar means of public transport.

Nor will a negative PCR test be required from unvaccinated people who want to attend live concerts, cinemas or theatres; this requirement is also eliminated for teaching staff and employees, both in the public and private sectors. Measures that come into force after the Turkish Health minister announced on January 12 the relaxation of quarantine measures, as well as that PCR tests will be carried out only on people who show symptoms.

PCR tests, still necessary to fly

Following this announcement, the Turkish government issued the following day – January 16 – another new circular to clarify the new measures, in which it explained that passengers of flights who are not vaccinated or who do not have the complete vaccination schedule, or who have not been infected in the last 180 days, must continue to present a negative PCR test to be able to travel by plane, both on national and international routes.

Just the day before, Turkish Airlines had announced that it would stop requiring a PCR from its passengers, following the guidelines of the January 15 circular, before it was corrected. The new circular of January 16 also clarifies that people who have rejected the vaccine and who work in nursing homes, child care centres or prisons, as well as the prison population, must continue to undergo PCR tests.

The decision of the Turkish authorities to stop requiring PCR tests for the unvaccinated comes despite the fact that the new daily cases of coronavirus approached 64,000 over the weekend, with infections being especially high in the provinces of Istanbul and Eskişehir. However, the apparent lower lethality of the new Omicron variant and its lower hospitalisation rate has led the Turkish government to lift many restrictions, in a country where – of its 84 million inhabitants – 52 million have the complete vaccination schedule and 23 million have received a third booster dose.