The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has begun spreading in Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said, noting that the strain is responsible for more than 10 percent of new infections in the country’s populous cities.
Koca reported the first cases of Omicron in mid-December in Istanbul and the western province of İzmir.
“In the face of the fast-spreading Omicron, the situation in Turkey has started to look like the situation in Europe. More than 10 percent of the new cases in populous provinces stem from Omicron,” the minister said in a statement he posted on Twitter on Dec. 25.
However, Koca added that the pandemic condition is not alarming as it is observed that Omicron does not significantly increase hospitalizations or the need for intensive care. But he warned that amid the spread of the strain, getting booster shots have become even more important, renewing calls for the public to receive the additional doses of the vaccine against the virus.
“Omicron is not the first strain. We have enough experience and information. This is a development which require us to be more cautious. There is no need for additional measures. We will go on with our lives with face masks, social distancing and vaccines,” Koca wrote, urging people to stay away from crowded places.
Data from the Health Ministry have shown that the number of daily infections still have been around 20,000 since the first cases of Omicron were detected in the country. On Dec 25, the Health Ministry reported 20,470 new cases and 145 deaths from the virus.
Meanwhile, the number of vaccines given in Turkey has exceeded 128 million doses. Since mid-January when the country rolled out its inoculation drive, more than 51 million people, which correspond to nearly 83 percent of the adult population aged 18 and above, have been given two doses of the jab.
Close to 57 million people, or some 92 percent of the same age group, have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Moreover, around 17 million people have been given the booster doses.
Last week, local authorities gave their approval for the country’s domestically developed vaccine, Turkovac, for emergency use.
Hurriyet Daily News