Professor Murat Akova, an infectious diseases expert, warned on Wednesday that delta variant cases, currently at a lower level, may become the dominant strain in Turkey after the upcoming Qurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha).
Akova, who also serves as coordinator of the Phase 3 trials of China’s CoronaVac vaccine in Turkey, said the situation is no different than European Union countries where the delta variant is expected to dominate the cases in August. “It does not matter how many delta cases we have, we predict it will be dominant after bayram,” which will start next week.
Bayram is an occasion of increased mobility where thousands head to vacation resorts or their hometowns. Akova lamented that people were dropping their guard, “like the pandemic is over.”
“Masks and social distancing are still the most vital protective measures,” he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Wednesday. “Even if you have three doses of vaccine, there is no 100% protection from coronavirus. We have to continue to stick to the measures,” he warned.
The number of delta variant cases almost tripled in one week. According to figures announced late Monday, delta variant cases reached 750, while there were also three delta plus cases.
“We may have low numbers, but it is inevitable that there will be more cases. Projections point to that. In the United States, for instance, half of all new cases are delta variants, and in European countries it is expected to reach a rate of 90%,” Akova said.
Turkey launched a normalization process on July 1, lifting curfews and reopening businesses closed as part of coronavirus restrictions. A mandatory mask rule remains though, along with repeated warnings to keep social distancing. A vaccination campaign launched in January of this year has reached more than 59 million doses, with 18.2 million people now having had both of their doses. Along with CoronaVac, a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is available to the Turkish public.
Akova says the vaccination rollout has not reached its desired level yet and it would be a serious mistake to ditch masks these days. “People falsely believe that we have returned to the pre-pandemic era. We see less people wearing masks, we see more crowding. Turkey also hosts tourists from other countries with a prevalence of delta variants. It is of utmost importance to be careful about masks and social distancing rules. It is also a great risk to stay for a long time in crowded places without proper ventilation while not wearing masks,” he stated.