Turkish COVID-19 cases reach record 77,722 daily

Turkey recorded 77,722 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, the highest figure on record, Health Ministry data showed.

Daily cases of the virus have more than tripled in just over two weeks as the Omicron variant spread rapidly.

“Although the developments originating from the new variant are disturbing, there is no doubt that we can overcome the situation in the normal course of our lives,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday. Daily deaths totalled 137, the ministry said.

“We know the results of vaccination, we know the importance of the booster shots and the effects of using protective masks and social distancing in order to control events,” Koca said.

Turkey is urging its citizens to get their booster jabs to help halt Omicron’s spread. Some 22.5 million people have received a third dose of a vaccine against COVID-19, Health Ministry’s data showed. The authorities have vaccinated some 52 million adults with two doses, but millions have received the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine, which a Hong Kong study showed is not effective against Omicron.

At the end of last month, Turkey began distributing its home-made Turkovac vaccine, which shares many of the characteristics of CoronaVac. Medical scientists have called on the government to publish details about its effectiveness after the authorities approved it for emergency use.

“No one should hesitate to say out loud that we can safely use our Turkovac vaccine,” Koca said.

Vaccinations in Turkey are lagging European averages. Turkey has a population of around 85 million people, meaning the 52 million who have received two doses equates to some 61.1 percent of citizens. In the EU, the full inoculation rate among all age groups stands at 70 percent, according to ourworldindata.org.

Last week, the government relaxed quarantine requirements, halving the quarantining period for people testing positive to seven days.

Koca said on Wednesday that PCR testing would now only be performed on people showing symptoms.

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