New measures in place as Turkey sees surge in COVID-19 cases

Turkey has imposed new restrictive measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 as the country witnessed an alarming surge in new cases, deaths and seriously ill patients.

The country’s capital Ankara has become the virus epicenter, followed by other cities such as Istanbul, the country’s biggest metropolis with over 16 million population, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca recently said, adding that Turkey is going through “the second peak” of the first wave of the outbreak, Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.

The government has imposed new virus restrictions amid rising new cases and fatalities, following the lifting of most restrictions on June 1.

As of September 4, large gatherings such as outdoors weddings and other traditional celebrations have been seriously toned down. The duration of a wedding ceremony has been limited to only an hour, with a ban on dancing, a traditional part of a wedding, as well as the serving of food.

People aged 65 and above and under 15, who are not first or second-degree relatives of the bride or groom, are not allowed to attend the wedding. At least one public officer should attend the wedding ceremony to monitor the measures. Weddings are being blamed as one of the causes of an uptick in new cases in the country.

In Ankara, observers also indicated that new cases were high among civil servants. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed by the state in the capital with few of them working currently from home.

Doctors are worried that the nation’s health system could be saturated with the increasing number of patients in critical conditions, mostly intubated.

Turkey’s death toll stands at 6,620 while 1,091 patients are in serious condition. The country has recorded over 278,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“We are functioning at a high capacity, COVID-19 wards that we closed in June are now reopened to treat patients,” Gule Cinar, a specialist of infectious diseases from an Ankara hospital, told Xinhua.

The doctor indicated that most of the patients had contracted the virus from close relatives, urging citizens to abide by self-isolation rules when tested positive. “We have a problem with people who are not conscious enough to stay in isolation, they try to roam free although they know they are sick, and even go to family reunions, funerals and weddings, thus spreading the virus,” Cinar warned.

In the face of the rising number of cases, Koca noted that hospitals closed down in line with a government decision to build new giant healthcare facilities, could be reopened.

“The outbreak has not spun out of control. However, the carelessness at weddings and religious holidays has bought us to this point,” he said, adding that curfews are not on the government’s agenda for now.

Sinan Adiyaman, head of the Turkish Medical Association, rang the alarm bell, saying that intensive care units (ICUs) in many Turkish hospitals were full.

He urged everyone for vigilance and to obey mask wearing and social distancing rules.