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Turkish health experts warn new COVID-19 measures don’t go far enough




November 18, 2020

ISTANBUL – In recent weeks, Turkey has seen a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases and unobserved death rates since the outbreak peaked in April. In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced new restrictions Tuesday aimed to stem the spread of the disease.

Beginning Friday evening, the Turkish government will impose partial weekend curfews between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on most citizens, while people under 20 and over 65 will be allowed to walk in. ‘outside during specific hours on weekdays.

Theaters and schools will also be closed for the remainder of the year, with students resuming their studies online after face-to-face instruction for most grade levels resumed briefly this fall. Shopping malls and hair salons will operate at reduced hours, while restaurants and cafes will only offer take-out and delivery services.

Employees in specific sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture will continue to work during curfews “in a manner that does not disrupt supply and production chainsErdogan said after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, adding that more stringent measures would be imposed if the upward trends in infections continued.

The measures come after new cases of COVID-19 have increased in recent weeks with the onset of cold weather. Although health experts have called for new restrictions to curb the resurgence of the pandemic, some say the latest restrictions do not go far enough.

Dr Sebnem Korur Fincanci, chairman of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) executive committee and internationally renowned forensic expert, said a full nationwide lockdown of 14 to 28 days was needed to deal with adequately the trends of COVID-19 in Turkey.

“It is not possible to deal with the pandemic without a lockdown of the manufacturing sector and of production workers,” Korur Fincanci told Al-Monitor. “We’re also not seeing a sufficient response without restrictions on intercity travel.”

He said more limits were needed on long-distance and cross-border travel while offering citizens to be encouraged to increase physical activity in their immediate surroundings, such as taking neighborhood walks and visiting parks, as the obesity appears to be one of the main risk factors for the disease. sickness.

New guidelines come after Turkish Ministry of Health’s scientific advisory board on coronaviruses more stringent measures recommended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at a Monday night meeting.

Although the Ministry of Health does not publish the total number of daily new cases of coronavirus, listing only symptomatic cases, official figures show a sharp increase in infection rates in October and November, with 3,819 new symptomatic patients and 103 deaths recorded on Tuesday.

“We managed to bring the epidemic under control during the first wave of the epidemic between March and May,” Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a statement on Monday. “However, in recent months we have seen a substantial increase in the number of cases and deaths, a trend reflected around the world.”

The new measures come after restrictions were introduced earlier this month, making face masks mandatory in all public places and forcing restaurants, bars and most gathering spaces to close before 10 p.m.

A smoking ban was imposed last week in crowded outdoor spaces on the recommendation of a coronavirus board member, who said people not only took off their masks to smoke, but also smoking has been found to spread the virus. Violators of the smoking ban will be fined 900 Turkish lira ($ 116).

Before the curfew, municipal governments in the country’s largest cities also moved implement localized measures to stem the spread of COVID-19. Officials in Istanbul on Tuesday announced the closure of city-run fitness centers and swimming pools, as well as indoor cultural centers, theaters and museums, while suspending art and vocational classes.

With the latest round of COVID-19 measures, sporting events will continue to be organized, but without spectators. On Tuesday, the TTB released a list of additional measures to stem COVID-19 rates, including widespread distribution of seasonal flu shots, financial support for people unable to work during the pandemic, and more transparent data on trends of the pandemic from the Ministry of Health.

Dr Vedat Bulut, general secretary of the TTB executive committee, said the actual rate of new daily COVID-19 infections could be up to 10 times higher than data from the Ministry of Health and curfews partial would not be effective in containing further increases.

“Imposing partial curfews for a few hours a day is not an evidence-based approach,” Bulut told Al-Monitor. He added: “Another problem is that theaters and cinemas are closed, but there are no restrictions on mosques. People always pray in crowded areas.

Bulut highlighted the differences in infection rates between Portugal and Spain this spring. He said rates had fallen sharply in Portugal, where citizens followed government guidelines and avoided religious services, while Spain was seeing a higher number of cases as people continued to congregate in places of worship. worship.

Since the first case of COVID-19 reported in Turkey in March, the Ministry of Health has reported around 420,000 cases and around 11,700 deaths linked to the virus.

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