Despite ongoing vaccination, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to public health in Turkey.
After struggling with high daily case numbers for weeks, the country has finally brought them below 27,000. Yet, the Health Ministry’s latest figures for the week between Oct. 9 and Oct. 15 paint a grim picture. Figures show the number of provinces with more than 200 cases per 100,000 people rose to 56 from 51 as the pandemic continues to rage in all 81 provinces.
Kastamonu and Zonguldak, two northern provinces, topped the list, with over 700 cases per 100,000 people. In northern Turkey concentrated clusters of cases have emerged, with the neighboring provinces of Karabük and Düzce also reporting above 500 cases. Zonguldak and Kastamonu have had an average of 500 cases per 100,000 in the weeks preceding the latest period. Overall, provinces in the Black Sea region have long dominated the list of places with the highest number of cases but this increase has long been confined to central and eastern parts of the region. The rise was particularly dramatic in Karabük, which was 12th on the list of provinces with the highest number of cases earlier but rose to the third spot between Oct. 9 and Oct. 15. Ordu and Samsun are among other Black Sea provinces reporting between 400 and 500 weekly cases.
Bursa is the only heavily populated province with case numbers above 400. Istanbul, the most crowded city in the country, had 292 cases per 100,000, while the capital Ankara had 374 cases. Izmir, the third biggest province, was the only one to report a relatively low number of cases, just 47.
The country significantly decreased its cases earlier this summer, following a 17-day COVID-19 lockdown that came ahead of a normalization process that lifted almost all pandemic-related restrictions. In parallel with the new process, authorities expanded the vaccination program viewed as the only way to curb the pandemic. More age groups were included in the program.
Still, vaccine hesitancy prevails in the country, which has been combating the pandemic since March 2020. Experts say the unvaccinated, those ignoring the mask mandate and those not adhering to social distancing and hygiene rules due to a false comfort brought by normalization, endanger the progress made against the pandemic. In the past two months, the number of daily cases steadily climbed up, reaching and sometimes exceeding 30,000, with daily fatalities surpassing 200. Another factor behind the surge are new, fast-spreading, deadlier variants of the virus, namely the delta variant and delta plus.