Coronavirus deaths pushing 7,000, while schools prepare to open – Turkey COVID-19 roundup

Turkey registers 56 new COVID-19 deaths

Fifty six people have died since Thursday in Turkey, where 1,671 new cases were diagnosed on Friday. According to official figures announced by the Health Ministry, which Minister Fahrettin Koca stopped tweeting out on Sept. 1, there are 24,651 active cases in the country– showing a continued rise in infections while death rates remain relatively low.

The rate of COVID-19 patients who develop pneumonia has fallen to 7.3 percent, showing improvement since the 9.4 percent figure announced in late July. The number of severely ill patients, 542 on record on July 29 when the statistic was first announced, has shot up to 1,223 by Sept. 11.

Turkey's official coronavirus pandemic figures for Sept. 11
Turkey's official coronavirus pandemic figures for Sept. 11

Turkish preschoolers prepare to go back to school as pandemic continues

Turkey’s National Education Ministry has announced its plans for students to return to in-person education on Friday, following the closure of schools in March and the implementation of remote education via the Internet and the country’s public television stations.

The school year will start on Sept. 21, with in-person attendance being mandatory for pre-school and first-grade students only for one day of the week. These youngest students will have five 30-minute classes for the first week, with 10-minute breaks alternating among different classes to avoid crowding and contact.

Mandatory education will continue with two in-person days in the following week. Details on the rest of the school year have not been announced yet. Parents will have the option to continue remote education if they so choose.

Online services from Turkey’s museums will be added to the curriculum for the coming year, the ministry said in a separate statement.


Turkey’s Diyarbakır sees more than 650 daily COVID-19 cases in August – report

Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır province, home to the country’s largest Kurdish population, has registered between 650 and 700 new cases of COVID-19 on several days in July and August, a report by the local branch of Turkey’s chambers of medicine found.

The Diyarbakır Chamber of Medicine (DTO) report found a rapid rise in case numbers following Turkey’s lifting of pandemic restrictions on June 1, which many experts have said has been too fast.

There are more than 700 patients in the province’s clinics, and more than 135 patients in intensive care units, the report said. Close to 600 healthcare professionals have contracted the coronavirus to date in Diyarbakır, shooting up from 95 on May 25.

Family physicians have been burdened with the brunt of the monitoring work, with each doctor having to take on 80 to 100 patients for observation, the report said, while those working in integrated hospitals have had to take on night shifts in the emergency room up to 8 times a month.

Hospitals designated pandemic hospitals have run out of beds, and less severe patients are being sent home, according to the report.

Non-coronavirus-related healthcare may face a crisis if healthcare professionals and the ministry don’t come up with a common plan, DTO said.


Turkish governor orders people not wearing masks to read books in quarantine

Sixty five people in Turkey’s northwestern Sakarya province have been sentenced to a fine, three days in quarantine, and reading, Governor Çetin Oktay Kaldırım announced in a tweet on Thursday.

Those violating the requirement for masks in public spaces were issued a fine of 900 liras ($120), three days in quarantine, during which time they will be required to read at least 10 books.

“We will continue to implement these precautions and inspections in the strictest manner,” Kaldırım said. The governor on Friday shared a video, showing police units visiting quarantined people and gifting them several books and masks.


Istanbul to ban open-air concerts, boat parties including Bosporus weddings

The Istanbul Governorate has announced a ban on all sea tourism and open-air concerts and activities in a statement released on Friday.

All concerts, festivals, performances, weddings, parties, and other such activities, including the popular weddings and engagement parties on boats in the Bosporus, have been banned on the orders of the megacity’s public health council, it said.

Those who engage in banned activities will face criminal prosecution, it added.


Southern Turkish mayor put on artificial coma due to COVID-19 complications

Mayor of the southern tourist hotspot Antalya province, Muhittin Böcek, has been put on an articifial coma after being intubated over lung damage caused by COVID-19, news website T-24 reported on Friday.

Mayor Böcek, member of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is showing signs of improvement, Akdeniz University Rector Özlenen Özkan told reporters. The mayor had been diagnosed on Aug. 17.

Another CHP heavyweight, Party Spokesman Faik Öztrak, had tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, but said in a tweet that he was well.


Turkish capital introduces staggered shifts to avoid crowding at rush hour

Ankara’s public servants will start to use four different times to start and end their shifts, the governorate announced on Friday.

The staggered shifts, separated by half hour intervals, aim to reduce crowding at rush hour to reduce new COVID-19 infections in the Turkish capital.

Women will be able to work remotely if they have children younger than 10, the governorate had announced in an earlier statement.

A healthcare workers’ union had said on Sept. 1 that the capital had 650 patients in intensive care units, comprising 65 percent of the “severely ill patients” announced nationwide for the day and counting for almost half of official coronavirus deaths in the country.

Coronavirus-positive patients placed under isolation will be referred to state-owned dormitories if they normally reside in temporary lodgings, like construction sites or seasonal farm worker huts, Ankara’s public health council announced as part of Friday’s new measures.