Turkish health minister under fire after comparing Omicron to the flu

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has come under fire from members of the country’s medical profession after he called on Turks not to worry about an increase in COVID-19 infections, comparing the Omicron version of the virus to the flu.  

Daily cases in the country extended record levels last week, but the country’s top health official said in a statement at the weekend that the worst of the pandemic was over.

“As your health minister, I say it loudly over the increasing number of cases; don't worry,” Koca said at a public event on Saturday. “The virus is not as strong as it used to be. If we would announce daily influenza cases, we would see similar scenarios.” 

The minister is undermining the effectiveness of steps to curb the spread of COVID-19 by downplaying the impact of Omicron, said Oğuz Kılınç, a member of Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Pandemic Working Group, the Diken news website reported on Sunday.

 “If such a perception occurs in society, the protective measures would be abandoned,” Kılınç said.

Turkey registered 94,783 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. Cases broke a record for a third day and compared with daily infections of about 20,000 in late December, Health ministry data showed. On Sunday, the country recorded 88,145 infections.

“The picture in hospitals is far from what the minister described. Health services are blocked up due to the number of COVID-19 patients,” said Esin Davutoğlu Şenol, another member of the working group.

"The health minister said that there is no need to worry. We are dying because of the policies of the ministry, which does not care about public health,” the TBB said on social media on Sunday.

“The situation should not be underestimated,” said Hasan Güçlü, a professor at Istanbul Medeniyet University faculty of Medicine, according to Diken.

“The pandemic’s reproduction rate is again on the rise - this is a sign that the cases will rise even faster," Güçlü said.

 

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