Experts warn of surge in COVID-19 cases amid school break

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People wear masks to help protect themselves from the coronavirus on Hamra street in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. Lebanon is gearing up for a new nationwide lockdown, as officials vowed Monday to take stricter measures against the coronavirus following the holiday season, which saw a large increase in infections and caused jitters in the country's already-battered health sector. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

An increase in intercity travels in the ongoing three-week school break can trigger a surge in COVID-19 cases similar to the one Turkey experienced during the Eid al-Adha holiday in 2020 summer, Tevfik Özlü from the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board has warned as the hotels in ski resorts and tourism hotspots have started operating at nearly full capacity.

Speaking to Demirören News Agency on Jan. 23, Özlü made a call to citizens. “Houses are safe. Stay at home in this school break.”

The occupancy rate at hotels in Uludağ, a famous winter sports center in the northwestern province of Bursa, skyrocketed to 90 percent at the start of the school break.

Talking about the crowd at ski centers, a business owner in Uludağ said, “On Jan. 21, around 2,500 people were on the ski runs at the same time.”

The occupancy rate is around 70 percent in Palandöken ski resort in the eastern province of Erzurum.

“The ski runs are full of people,” said a holidaymaker who preferred to spend the vacation at the Ovacık ski resort in the eastern province of Tunceli.

A similar increase is seen in other tourism centers close to Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir as well.

People flocked to Kartepe in Kocaeli, a neighboring province of Istanbul, as the snow level rose to more than 1 meter as of the weekend.

“Yes, we are tired and bored. But we need to stay home and stop the pandemic,” Özlü said, noting the risk of a second wave of coronavirus.

“Similar to the rise of the COVID-19 cases after the Eid al-Adha holidays, we may face a new wave of coronavirus,” he added.

Özlü also noted that the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, Russia, India, Brazil and Europe rose despite curbs, measures, and lockdowns.

“We, in Turkey, are moving forward at a good pace, but still, it is not sufficient. We are not on a safe point,” he said.

“The number of cases has decreased due to the measures,” he added.

As part of the government’s measures to check the spread of COVID-19, Turkey has been implementing curfews and lockdowns since early December 2020.

Weeknight curfews are in effect from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. the next morning, while weekend lockdowns begin at 9 p.m. on Fridays and end at 5 a.m. on Mondays.

The first full weekend lockdown took place from Dec. 4 until Dec. 7, 2020. Turkey also imposed an 80-hour lockdown on New Year’s Eve to prevent large gatherings for celebrations.

Hurriyet Daily News

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