Turkey may be heading for new COVID-19 peak, driven by delta variant

Turkey may experience a new peak in COVID-19 cases in the month of August, spurred on by the delta variant of the virus, said Serap Şimşek Yavuz, a member of the government’s scientific board.

"Before the normalisation decisions at the beginning of June, we said “this speed of re-opening is not correct” as we knew that the delta variant would spread,” Yavuz told the Birgün newspaper on Tuesday.

“We said, “let's spend the summer with restrictions and vaccinate everyone until September”, but our warnings were not heeded. Mobility has increased a lot in recent days, which is a suitable environment for the spread of the virus. We should be ready for a new peak in August.”

Turkey reported 7,667 new cases of the COVID-19 on Monday, bringing total infections since last year’s outbreak to 5.47 million in the country of 85 million people. The government has relaxed curbs on the population after cases fell to just over 5,000 in late June from a record of more than 63,000 in April.

The government has inoculated 33.9 percent of the population with two doses of the jab and 62.9 percent have received one dose, according to Health Ministry data. Last week, forty-five percent of Germans and 54 percent of Brits had been fully vaccinated. The proportion stands at 40 percent in France and 43 percent in Turkey’s neighbour Greece.

“Probably the delta variant has become the dominant variant,” Yavuz said. “If you are unvaccinated, you have no chance against this variant. Because this variant is much more contagious.

“No new restrictions are being applied so long as the health system in our country is coping. I think that additional curbs will not come unless there is a new peak.”

On Monday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca warned Turks to exercise caution during an annual religious holiday, which began this week.

“The number of cases increased by about 30 percent compared to last week,” he said on Twitter. “Do not take things lightly in the rush and joy of the holiday. Stay away from closed and crowded environments.”

Lütfi Çamlı, the head of a medical board for the western province of Izmir, said an influx of tourists, particularly from Russia, appeared to be driving up cases.

“Many tourists came to our country from Russia. Although some examinations are made during their entry, it is not enough,” Çamlı said in comments published by the Diken news website. “They can enter even with tests that we call rapid antigen, which are not very reliable.”

Çamlı said the delta variant was most prominent in the tourist region of Antalya, where many Russians visit.