Some 400 people have been infected with new virus variants, including variants peculiar to Turkey, Hasan Tezer, a member of the Health Ministry’s advisory board, says.
Coronavirus variants exclusive to Turkey are in circulation, but it is not clear how they will affect the patients, a Turkish expert has said as mutated strains of the coronavirus force countries around the globe to take additional measures.
"There are about 400 people in the country who are infected with new virus variants, including variants specific to Turkey,” Professor Hasan Tezer, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, said in an interview to local media.
“We have South Africa, United Kingdom variants. We have variants exclusive to our country as well, but it is not clear yet how those will affect the outbreak,” he said.
Professor Dr Sila Akhan, an internal specialist at Kocaeli University, said Turkey has to contain the new variant before it becomes dominant.
“It appears that Turkey was not affected much by new variants, but it does not mean we will not be. We have to act preemptively and take all measures," Tezer said.
"We are now monitoring the variants with tests among people who have tested positive for Covid-19,” he added.
Call to abide by the measures
Tezer warned that various variants would sweep Europe by the end of April and pose an increased risk to the world.
“We know that UK variant can cling to cells easily and can spread easier. South Africa and Brazil variants differ from it, and they have additional mutations. These variants offset the desired level of antibodies so even if you are vaccinated or had a slight case of Covid-19.” he said.
"This means that you can relapse into the disease even after inoculation or a previous case of coronavirus," he added.
The only way to prevent the new variants is to abide by the measures that have been set in place since the start of the outbreak, Tezer said.
“Along with fast vaccination, we need to adhere to strict rules like wearing protective masks, social distancing and hygiene,” he added.
'Thousands of mutations'
The new variants of the coronavirus were first reported last month in Turkey.
The government banned travellers from Britain from entering the country after detecting 15 cases of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus in early January.
Turkey previously stopped flights from Brazil, Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and South Africa because of the more transmissible mutated coronavirus variant.
Tezer said experts will later this month announce the impact of the new variants on Turkey, based on factors like the incubation period of the virus.
“The number of cases varies from province to province, region to region. Some report much fewer cases and others report high numbers. This is something to do with geographical factors, social life and other factors,” he said.
While the variants have prompted a fresh wave of fear, Tezer says the coronavirus is already subject to mutation a couple of times every month.
“It started with its mutation as the virus evolved into a disease transmissible to humans from animals. Currently, there are thousands of mutations,” he said.
Turkey's daily cases figure stands around 7,000 cases, according to the Health Ministry's official tally. Daily fatalities dropped below 100 last week.
The country's case tally passed 2.57 million on Sunday, while the nationwide death toll reached 27,377.
Since last December, Turkey has been implementing curfew on weeknights and a full weekend curfew to curb the spread of the virus.