Daily COVID-19 cases are growing exponentially in Turkey. On Tuesday, the country exceeded 24,000, the highest jump in a few months. Similarly, daily fatalities reached 126, surpassing the most recent highest number on June 3. Among the culprits of the rise is the fast-spreading delta variant. The high number of unvaccinated people and people ignoring the rules in the aftermath of a normalization process that began on July 1, also play a role in the surge.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted on Tuesday that Turkey can only succeed in ending the pandemic if people heed the rules (such as wearing protective masks and adhering to social distancing and hygiene rules) and get their jabs. “It is important to have all of your doses,” Koca said, urging people with only one dose of the vaccines to get their second dose as soon as possible, and for those with two doses (of Sinovac) to get their third.
The number of doses administered in the country, which has a population of over 83 million people, reached 74.1 million, with 27.7 million having received two doses, in the eighth month of the vaccination campaign. The country uses both China’s Sinovac and Germany’s Pfizer-BioNTech jabs and had decreased the vaccine eligibility age to 18 earlier this summer. Still, a hesitancy to get vaccinated prevails among people, especially in light of infectious rumors on social media fed by conspiracy theories that seek to instill vaccine mistrust among millions. The Health Ministry is mobilized to get as many people as possible vaccinated through repeated warnings from senior officials, public service announcements and expanding vaccination venues from hospitals to almost everywhere, from farms to shopping malls. Some businesses even offer free stuff and discounts for those who have had both their doses.
Accounts of those not vaccinated and infected with COVID-19 also serve as a stark warning for millions of others reluctant to get jabbed. 32-year-old Necmettin Ünvanlı is among them. Ünvanlı, who is being treated for COVID-19 at Feriha Öz Emergency Hospital in Istanbul, was infected with the virus during the recent Qurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha) holiday. “I have long delayed getting my jab and had this ridiculous thought that I would never be infected,” Ünvanlı lamented in an interview with the Sabah newspaper. “I will get vaccinated as soon as I recover,” he said.
61-year-old Halil Keskin was infected with the deadly virus after he attended a crowded funeral. “I was not vaccinated because I was busy, and I believed that the infection would not get to me,” he said.
32-year-old Murat Kargın is still recovering at the hospital after a severe bout of illness and regrets not getting vaccinated in time. “I have trouble breathing. I will have my jab once I leave the hospital and will try to convince at least 20 people I know to get vaccinated,” he said.
The hospital’s chief physician, Dr. Nurettin Yiyit, said the majority of COVID-19 patients they had were infected after they attended crowded events and ignored mask and social distancing rules. “We see the vaccinated adults admitted to our hospitals recover with mild symptoms while the young and unvaccinated patients have more severe cases,” he said.
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