Minister urges to take precautions as virus growth rate doubles in Istanbul

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The increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Istanbul in the last week reached 85 percent more than the average of the last month as the number of cases in the city accounts for 40 percent of all infections in Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said.

Koca said the biggest reason for the increasing infections in Istanbul was public transportation as millions of workers pack mass transit vehicles during rush hour, creating a perfect environment for the virus to spread further.

“If we don’t take the situation in Istanbul under control, the outbreak will spiral out of control,” he told reporters following a weekly meeting with the country’s Science Board.

The board meetings, which have been taking place in Ankara since the beginning of the pandemic, was held for the first time in Istanbul.

Koca said that return of the citizens from Anatolia to Istanbul to spend the winter in the city has accelerated the pace of the pandemic, listing several districts in Istanbul that have seen a surge of over 100 percent.

He noted that the number of cases increased by 123 percent in Büyükçekmece, 120 percent in Sarıyer, 104 percent in Bakırköy and 104 percent in Beylikdüzü districts, describing the rise as “scary.”

Urging employers to create alternative shifts to divide their employees and lessen the load on mass transit vehicles, the minister said irregular shifts would also protect businesses from losing its entire workforce in case of an outbreak.

Koca also underlined that the virus is currently being transmitted from one person to an average of three people and has urged the citizens to reduce physical contact and not to leave their houses “unless they have to.”

“If we stop by three places, we will reduce it to one when we go out. If we are meeting with three people a day, we will meet with one person, Koca said.

The minister has once again urged citizens to strictly continue wearing masks, maintain their social distance and pay attention to hygiene.

When asked if the government is considering reimplementing travel restrictions or weekend curfews on a regional basis, Koca said that such measures were currently not on the agenda.

Turkey saw its coronavirus death toll surpass 10,000, becoming the eighth country in Europe to reach the grim milestone.

Hurriyet Daily News

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