Turkey’s daily COVID-19 infections climbed to 54,724 on Tuesday, extending the highest levels since April, from 44,869 the previous day, according to Health Ministry data.
The number of cases in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul constituted more than half of the total due to the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Tuesday.
“Although the increase in cases due to the new variant draws attention to the big cities for now, the same situation can easily be experienced in other provinces,” Koca said. He warned Turks in all parts of the country to adhere to measures designed to curb the spread of the virus.
Turkey announced its first cases of Omicron on Dec. 11. The variant accounts for a quarter of cases in the country, Koca said on Sunday.
Turkey is urging its citizens to get their booster jabs to help halt Omicron’s spread. Some 20 million people have received a third dose of a vaccine against COVID-19, the Health Ministry’s data showed. The authorities have vaccinated 51.7 million adults with two doses.
The country’s battle against COVID-19 may be undermined by the use of less effective vaccines produced in China and locally. Millions have received at least one dose of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine. Hong Kong researchers said last month that three doses of CoronaVac did not provide adequate protection against Omicron.
The Turkish government began delivering the homegrown Turkovac vaccine to state hospitals last week. There is no publicly available data on Turkovac’s effectiveness against Omicron. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the emergency use approval of Turkovac on Dec. 22.
There is no reliable data available on Turkovac, which shares almost the same features as CoronaVac, Professor Mehmet Ceyhan, a member of the Hacettepe University Medical Faculty, said on Tuesday.
Vaccinations in Turkey are also lagging European averages. Turkey has a population of around 85 million people, meaning the 51.7 million who have received two doses equates to some 60.8 percent of citizens. In the EU, the full inoculation rate among all age groups stands at 69.3 percent, according to ourworldindata.org.