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Turkey mulls regular COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated

Turkey mulls regular COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated

Amid ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases, the Turkish government is mulling additional measures to prevent the unvaccinated part of the population from mingling with the rest, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

The minister said they are mulling introducing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing of unvaccinated people at certain venues like concert halls, cinemas, buses and airplanes.

“Some countries have already introduced this practice and we can do it too to protect our citizens. It can be applied in places where people stand or sit next to each other. The tests will be free. Those resisting vaccination may be asked to undergo tests every two days. Our purpose here is to protect those who are vaccinated and want to go on with their daily lives,” Koca said.

The minister noted that they do not want to sanction the unvaccinated but instead seek to convince them. “I think it is the correct way to eliminate hesitancy among the public toward vaccines and I believe this will eventually succeed. We are talking about a society that accepted vaccination against other diseases like smallpox at a rate of 98%. People are reluctant only about coronavirus vaccines. We can overcome this hesitancy by informing the public properly. There should not be mandatory measures,” he said.

Amid a surge in coronavirus cases which hit its highest level in months this week, Turkey managed to administer more than 74 million doses of vaccines since the start of the vaccination program in January. Nearly 28 million people have been administered both doses. The country strives to reach at least a 70% immunity rate among the population to reduce the impact of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the fast-spreading delta variant threatens the improvement in the situation. Hundreds have been infected with the delta variant according to the latest figures by the Health Ministry.

The country also hit a snag in the vaccination program due to a shortage in doses but authorities say the problem, stemming from manufacturing problems at BioNTech, one of two vaccine suppliers for Turkey, has been resolved. By next week, Turkey plans to receive around 13 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech jab.