Turkish COVID-19 cases hit highest in nearly five weeks, schools to remain open

Turkey registered 24,613 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the highest number in almost five weeks. Deaths totalled 231, the Health Ministry said.

Infections began climbing above 20,000 daily in late July, the highest levels since April, after the government ended daily curfews and travel restrictions at the start that month. New cases numbered less than 5,000 per day in early July.

Turkey has since taken further steps to ease curbs on the population, including re-opening schools. Education Minister Mahmut Özer said the government was determined to keep classes open even if cases increased.

“Keeping schools open is no longer just a matter of education, but of national security,” Özer told state-run TRT Haber television on Monday. “For this reason, all our citizens must make sacrifices in order to keep our schools as the last institutions to be closed, as long as there are no extraordinary circumstances.”

Face-to-face education was interrupted in 198 out of 850,000 classes in the first week of the new school year due to COVID-19 infections or close contact, he said.

The government will make decisions affecting classes hit by the infections, not whole schools, Özer said. Schools will remain open, he said.

Some 18 million students and over one million teachers returned to school on Sept. 6. There are a total of 71,320 schools in the country of which 57,108 are state-run.

Seventy-eight percent of teachers are fully vaccinated and 91 percent have received at least a first dose of the jab, Özer said. Unvaccinated teachers will receive PCR tests twice a week.

The Turkish authorities have vaccinated some 40.68 million adults with two doses, according to Health Ministry data. Turkey has a population of around 85 million people, meaning the number equates to some 47.9 percent of citizens.

In the EU, the full inoculation rate among all age groups stands at 60.2 percent, according to ourworldindata.org.



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