Turkey has left behind the worst in the coronavirus pandemic and this is reflected in the weekly number of cases. The Health Ministry on Monday shared the figures for the week of March 12-18, and most cities showed a decline in cases.
In three big cities, including Istanbul, the capital Ankara and Izmir, a significant drop was evident in the number of cases per every 100,000 people. In Istanbul, the number of cases per 100,000 dropped to 239 from 340 in the previous week, while it was 395 for Ankara from 541 in the previous week and 247 for Izmir.
The central province Eskişehir kept its title as the province with the highest number of cases but even there, the figures decreased to 628 from 709. Kırklareli in the northwest had the second-highest number at 415. Şırnak had only around eight cases per 100,000, the lowest in Turkey, ahead of 11 in Van and 15 in Şanlıurfa, other provinces in the east.
The country recorded a steep decline in the number of cases over the past two months. Once climbing above 100,000, the number of daily cases fell as low as around 11,000 on Sunday, with fatalities declining to 64, from the usual number which exceeded 100 for weeks since the start of 2022.
The decline is linked to the prevalence of the omicron variant, which is a less severe form of the coronavirus, as well as widespread the vaccination program run by the Health Ministry. The country has administered more than 146 million doses of vaccines since January 2021, while the rate of people with two doses of vaccines exceeded 85%.
The Health Ministry had scrapped some restrictions after a sharp drop combined with a lessened severity of the cases. Wearing protective masks outdoors is no longer mandatory, while the HES (Life Fits Into Home, Hayat Eve Sığar) code, a unique code assigned to each citizen, is not required now for entry at certain venues.
Projections based on the course of pandemics in the countries, which applied measures similar to Turkey and subsequently ended them, and the trends in the pandemic show the cases would considerably drop by mid-March.
In the meantime, the country is on alert against the new BA.2 subvariant of the deadly disease, which has started to dominate cases elsewhere. The subvariant now accounts for most of the cases in Europe, with countries revising plans to respond to the course of the pandemic. For Turkey, on the continent's southeastern tip, trends in the pandemic in Europe often arrive late. Waves of cases stemming from new variants of the infection usually arrive within two months after they are first reported elsewhere. BA.2 is responsible for 60% of cases in some European countries, from Britain, France and Germany to Switzerland and Austria. It has also rapidly spread in the United States. BA.2, as a matter of fact, spreads faster than omicron and affects children and people aged 60 and above as well. Still, experts predict that it will not increase fatalities as a subvariant that the efficiency of vaccines can counter.