Turkey ramps up COVID-19 inspections as flu season arrives


Starting on Monday, Turkey will see coronavirus inspections every day after the Interior Ministry ordered all governorates to ramp up preventative measures to curb a potential rise in COVID-19 cases due to the arrival of flu season.

In a circular sent on Sunday to authorities in every province, the ministry said huge spikes of coronavirus cases across the world, especially in Europe, have shown that the coronavirus threat remains as dangerous as ever and that it has proven the need for stricter inspections for compliance with the announced measures.

The ministry ordered all provincial public health boards across the country to convene within the next 48 hours and prepare detailed analyses of the outbreak situation in their respective provinces. They were also asked to advise on any special measures that need to be taken for their jurisdictions.

According to the circular, police officers and other local security forces will carry out inspections throughout the week, with the target of inspections changing every day.

Mondays will see social gathering places such as parks, cafes and restaurants inspected, while on Tuesdays, mass transit vehicles, bus terminals and airports will be the focus of scrutiny.

Factories and other workplaces will have inspections on Wednesdays. On Thursdays, security forces will make sure people placed in self-isolation abide by the quarantine rules. Malls, mosques and sports facilities will be reviewed on Fridays.

With people rushing to socialize during the weekends, streets, bazaars, coastlines and other green areas will be inspected on Saturdays. And finally, for Sundays, beauty salons, wedding halls and theme parks will be visited by authorities to make sure declared measures are being followed.

Though the ministry has decided on the focuses for each day, that does not mean sporadic inspections outside the designated days won’t be carried out to prevent the habit of only following the precautions for a single day during the week and ignoring them for the rest.

With the weather turning cold for much of the country and people getting together in indoor places, the ministry urged all local authorities to continue raising awareness about the importance of wearing a mask.

Flu threat

The move came two days after Health Minister Fahrettin Koca issued fresh warnings about a potential rise in infectious diseases due to flu season.

“We have entered the fall season, which poses a considerable threat compared with summer months. We will spend the majority of our time in indoor places. That means the coronavirus will have a greater chance to spread as we will have difficulty maintaining social distance,” Koca said on Friday at a press conference in the eastern province of Erzurum.

“In short, fall will be an opportunistic time for the coronavirus. If we consider the usual flu infections, you can see the graveness of the situation. Just like coronavirus, the flu is a respiratory infection. You can protect yourself from both viruses with the same measures. I ask everyone to keep practicing the precautions,” the minister said.

Proving the minister’s words right, a member of Turkey’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board said on Sunday that Turkey recorded a fourfold decrease in flu cases in September compared with the same month last year.

“We carried out a study that compared the flu cases between September 2019 and 2020. Due to widespread mask usage, flu cases have dropped fourfold compared to last year. We also recorded a decline in many infectious diseases, including hepatitis A, due to increased awareness of hygiene,” professor Mustafa Necmi Ilhan told Demirören News Agency (DHA) Sunday.

The increased importance of wearing a mask was highlighted by another member of the board, professor Selma Metintaş, who urged everyone to learn the difference between coronavirus and flu infections.

People can get infected from asymptomatic patients with COVID-19, but that is not the case with flu infections, Metintaş said in an interview with Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday.

“A flu patient usually remains infectious for five to seven days. There won’t be any infections from patients with no symptoms. For COVID-19, seniors and people with respiratory conditions, diabetes and obesity are in the highest risk group. For flu, its children and people with chronic diseases,” Metintaş told AA.

“Flu follows a much more serious progression in seniors and children. While a person can be diagnosed with COVID-19 from anywhere between two to 14 days after contact with another patient, the same time frame for flu is only one to four days,” she said.

Turkey recorded 71 deaths and 1,723 new coronavirus patients on Saturday, according to the Health Ministry.

The Health Ministry said more than 112,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out across the country in the past 24 hours.

With Saturday’s numbers, Turkey’s total death toll from COVID-19 rose to 9,224, while the total number of patients now stands at 345,678.

Meanwhile, the number of recoveries has also increased to surpass the 300,000 mark, with 1,428 patients declared healthy.

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