Turkey's COVID-19 cases have surged while hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers flock to resorts to spend the holiday of Eid al-Adha. Health experts warn that the Delta variant, spreading in Turkey, could cause a new wave of infections in August.
ISTANBUL, July 24 (Xinhua) -- The daily COVID-19 cases across Turkey have jumped to over 11,000 for the first time since mid-May, while authorities call for renewed vigilance as holidaymakers seem to have cast aside hygiene and social distancing rules.
Turkey recorded 11,094 cases and 60 deaths on Friday, according to the health ministry. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who frequently uses Twitter to warn citizens, said "if you want tomorrow to be better than today, comply with the measures. Get vaccinated."
"We have to return to strict compliance with hygiene rules and drop our relaxed attitude towards the virus," Koca also warned.
He was referring to hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers who have flocked to crowded coastal towns and resorts in western and southern Turkey this week to spend the holiday of Eid al-Adha, or feast of sacrifice.
TV channels have shown the images of mass gatherings for the holiday in many towns and lots of people on the beaches, most of them without masks and without complying with social distancing.
Turkey started a mass vaccination campaign in January, with the Chinese Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The country has administered over 65 million doses, including third booster shots for people over 50 years old.
But health experts fear that the Delta variant, spreading in Turkey, could cause a new wave of infections in August.
"There has been a massive tourist movement in coastal regions, and people didn't respect sanitary rules as they did in their hometowns," Gule Cinar, a virologist from capital Ankara, told Xinhua.
"This surge of infections is worrying. We do not want our health system to be challenged again in the coming months. Everyone should be very careful and get vaccinated," she said, calling on citizens not to "relax."
Turkey managed to lower daily new cases of COVID-19 from around 60,000 in April to 4,000 in June through closing restaurants, shops, and cafes, imposing weekend curfews, and pushing forward the vaccination campaign.
Virus-related restrictions have been lifted on July 1, paving the way to a normalization process.
"The Delta variant gives an extra burden of infections, and we have to prevent it," Alper Sener, a member of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, told the state-run Anadolu agency. "Social distancing is a way to prevent infections."
Amid an ongoing vaccination drive, distrust and misinformation are still at the core of hesitancy in Turkey. Media reports said that Turkish authorities may impose restrictions for those abstaining from having their vaccines soon.