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Health Minister Fahrettin Koca expressed hope for vaccine developments

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca expressed hope for vaccine developments

Protective masks that adorn the faces of millions may be history soon, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca says. The minister who helms the country’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak on Friday tried to instill hope in a public weary of months of restrictions and measures. “We yearn for the days we will breathe freely again. Masks will not be in our lives soon. There are great developments in vaccine work. Let’s wait for the results,” he tweeted. In the meantime, he called on the public to properly wear masks everywhere except at home and thanked the nation “for patience.”

Wearing masks is mandatory across Turkey which has experienced a surge in the number of patients recently. Although it loosened restrictions on daily life and kicked off a “normalization” process last summer, the country follows a careful path to recovery with what authorities call “controlled social life.” Social distancing is strictly enforced with daily inspections while authorities gradually introduce new bans based on upward trends in the number of patients.

Turkey currently has more than 404,000 patients, far higher than recoveries which stands at 346,794. Fatalities exceeded 11,233 while the number of tests reached more than 15.7 million since the outbreak was first reported in the country in March. Smoking in crowded outdoor public places was banned starting from Thursday to slow the recent surge in infections, as part of the latest measures.

Koca’s statements came in the wake of promising developments in vaccine studies. Turkey started human trials of its own locally made vaccine while Chinese and U.S.-German vaccines are being tested on volunteers for phase 3 trials. The minister on Thursday held a phone call with professor Uğur Şahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci, two Turkish-German scientists behind the U.S.-German vaccine which was found to be more than 90% effective against COVID-19.