COVID-19 on the rise in Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city

As cases infected with the COVID-19 are on the rise in Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city, and several other provinces, authorities conducted on Friday a fresh nationwide inspection into the implementation of COVID-19 measures.

Thousands of security officers attended inspections in 81 provinces to check whether people were wearing masks outdoors and whether workplaces, restaurants, and cafes were following hygiene and social distancing rules.

During the inspections, businesses such as barbers, coiffeurs, beauty salons, Internet cafes, and beaches were checked, the Interior Ministry said.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu held on Saturday a videoconference with the governors and police chiefs of all provinces to assess the results of these fresh rounds of inspections, his ministry announced.

Turkey has recorded 73 deaths and 1,812 new coronavirus patients over the past day, the Health Ministry announced Friday evening, bringing Turkey’s total death toll from COVID-19 rose to 9,153, while the total number of patients at 343,955.

These figures are the highest since May.

In a tweet announcing the current figures, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that after a long period of time, the number of patients in critical condition was now on the rise.

Shortly before the announcement, Koca said during a press conference that currently there were no additional measures planned, but the possibility for future measures would not be ruled out.

The minister warned that the rise of cases in some provinces, including Istanbul and the northwestern Bursa and Kocaeli, posed “a risk to the entire country,” thus making it essential to fight the virus in these locations especially.

In the past weeks, 45 people lost their lives because of COVID-19 in Istanbul alone, Koca noted, calling on citizens to abide by safety rules.

“As the winter approaching, we will be confined to indoors. Seasonal flu combined with the coronavirus could put us on a difficult spot,” he remarked.

According to the minister, 40,000 healthcare personnel have tested positive, and 107 of them have lost their lives to date.

After going through the worst of the outbreak and managing to lower the number of daily cases below 1,000, Turkey has been witnessing a resurgence in new infections since the end of summer.

In an effort to halt the steadily rising infection rates, the government has introduced several measures, making the wearing of masks outside mandatory across all provinces and began running mass transit at a reduced capacity.

Experts are especially calling on citizens not to lowers their guards in the face of the virus.

“Group meals in cafes or restaurants are not a good thing. I understand that people want to socialize, but the moment the mask is removed at the table, there is a risk of infection,” Tevik Ozlu, a thoracic medicine specialist and a member of Turkey’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board said.

“This rule applies also to reunions at home for weddings or other ceremonies. The culture of eating together should be forgotten during this pandemic, it is very dangerous,” he said on a videoblog.

Istanbul is a city of 16 million people and people are forced to commute in the city and other neighboring provinces, increasing the risk of new COVID-19 clusters, experts have warned, calling on authorities to impose new intercity travel bans.

Meanwhile, younger people have replaced older citizens in intensive care units in recent weeks, Professor Hasan Murat Gunduz said, pointing out the danger of Turkish youth ignoring COVID-19 measures.

Gunduz, the chief physician of a hospital in the southern province of Adana and a member of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, warned that the rate of younger patients with COVID-19 who end up in intensive care rose to 25 percent recently.

“They think they are stronger, and nothing will happen. However, after the normalization, the low rate of cases among the youth increased again,” he told Demiroren News Agency.

Turkey returned to a “new normal” of daily life early in the summer and reopened businesses, under strict measures against the outbreak.