Turkey Evacuates Citizens, Bans Flights Amid COVID-19 Omicron Strain

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As the new omicron variant continues to spread, Turkish Airlines conducted evacuation flights from South Africa on Saturday after Turkey implemented travel restrictions and flight bans in the country.

As many as 41 passengers have been evacuated on flights from South Africa’s two largest cities, Cape Town and Johannesburg, to the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul, an airline official told Anadolu news agency. (AA) on condition of anonymity.

Passengers will spend 14 days in quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status or recent infection with the virus. A negative PCR test will be required to end the isolation in locations determined by the local governorate.

The Turkish Embassy in Pretoria said on Twitter that Turkish Airlines flights would be the last from South Africa to Turkey until further notice.

Turkey announced on Friday that it would impose travel restrictions from South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe from November 27 due to the omicron strain.

“Travel from Botswana, the Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe to our country through all of our land, air, sea and rail border crossings will not be permitted as of this evening,” he said. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a statement on Twitter.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the new COVID-19 strain from southern Africa is a “variant of concern”, naming it omicron.

The UK has also suspended flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, while EU member states have agreed to introduce rapid restrictions on all travel from these countries as well as Mozambique.

Koca recently said that Turkey has no plans to implement further lockdowns or closures to handle the scope of the pandemic, instead placing “great emphasis on individual precautions … especially vaccinations”, while ‘he was answering questions from the press after the presidential Cabinet meeting. Complex.

Europe is on the verge of being shut down again, with many countries already announcing new lockdown measures. When asked if new restrictions and measures were on the agenda in Turkey, Koca said none of these measures were planned.

“In the new period in Turkey, we do not plan to manage the pandemic with closures. In the new period, we attach great importance to individual precautions and especially to vaccination, “he said and added:” We think it is very important so that everyone gets vaccinated. “

Asked about the progress of the antiviral pill, molnupiravir, which is expected to be used to treat patients with COVID-19, Koca noted that many drugs have been used during the pandemic and their effectiveness will become clearer over time.

120 million shots

According to official figures released on Saturday, Turkey has administered more than 120 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since launching a vaccination campaign in January.

More than 56.1 million people have received a first dose of the vaccine and more than 50.3 million have been fully vaccinated, the health ministry said.

Turkey also administered a third booster injection to more than 12 million people.

Meanwhile, work on the nationally developed vaccine Turkovac is underway, with phase 3 trials of the vaccine nearing completion.

Speaking in the capital Ankara at the Planning and Budget Committee meeting in Parliament, Koca announced on Wednesday that the request for emergency clearance for the nationally developed COVID-19 vaccine Turkovac has been submitted. to the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency (TITCK).

The vaccine, formerly known as ERUCOV-VAC, is an inactive COVID-19 vaccine. A similar vaccine, CoronaVac developed by Chinese company Sinovac, had formed the backbone of the country’s immunization program before messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines became available in greater numbers.

In a separate statement, Koca previously announced that Turkey will donate 10 million doses of vaccine through the COVAX mechanism to deliver vaccines to underdeveloped countries.

“Turkey has set a positive example”

The Minister of Health and WHO European Director Dr Hans Kluge also had a phone call in which the latter praised Turkey’s solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We can only handle this pandemic with solidarity. As we face a difficult winter, I am grateful to @drfahrettinkoca and Turkey for the generous offer to receive # COVID19 patients if needed, to support countries Europeans with overwhelmed healthcare systems and intensive care units, ”Kluge wrote on Twitter.

“Turkey has set a positive example of global solidarity, providing 160 countries and 29 international organizations with # COVID19 supplies, as well as donating more than 2 million doses of vaccine to 11 countries since the start of the pandemic . My thanks to Dr Koca and Turkey, ”he added.

“We cannot ignore COVID-19”

On Twitter, Koca said the pandemic has lasted longer than expected and acknowledged that people feel demoralized and demotivated, however, the reality of infection and death rates remains.

“With the high number of cases and deaths, the truth is before us, again and again, every day. We cannot ignore COVID-19,” Koca added, calling for a determined fight against the pandemic.

Healthcare workers, who have received two doses of an inactivated vaccine and a booster shot of an mRNA or inactivated vaccine, will be able to receive another injection, Koca said in a statement after an advisory board meeting scientist on the coronavirus.

During the meeting, the Minister of Health said that the treatments used in the management of the outbreak have been reassessed and that discussions on the use of the antiviral drug Favipiravir have been addressed.

“The data collected by our ministry was discussed at our scientific committee meeting, and the drug has been clearly shown to have no significant side effects,” he said.

Turkish scientists at work

Besides their efforts to develop Turkovac, Turkish scientists are also working tirelessly to help the world fight COVID-19 with their studies.

One such study, which was carried out by the Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine at Istanbul University, proved that vitamin D supplementation was found to be effective in reducing deaths and hospitalizations in COVID-19 patients.

The study, the results of which were published in the journal Nutrients, was carried out on 210 cases of coronavirus treated at Cerrahpaşa hospital. It found that deaths from COVID-19 among patients receiving vitamin D supplements have declined more than twice, and the length of hospital stays has also been reduced by 1.9 times.

In the study, 163 of 210 patients received vitamin D while the rest did not receive supplements. The supplements increased the vitamin level to over 30 nanograms / deciliters (ng-dl) in those in the experimental group.

The authors of the study claim that vitamin D was already used in the treatment of tuberculosis and pointed to previous cross-sectional studies that associated low levels of vitamin D with an increased rate or severity of various infections, including influenza. bacterial vaginosis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). They say the vitamin has the ability to regulate the immune response and dampen the course of acute infections.

Professor Mustafa Sait Gönen, study coordinator and dean of the faculty, said he measured vitamin D levels in patients and gave supplements for 14 days to patients with low vitamin levels.

“We also looked at data from 867 COVID-19 patients. Ultimately, we concluded that supplementation reduced the death rate and hospital stays, ”he told The Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday. An earlier study abroad did not find that people with higher levels of vitamin D had a lower risk of coronavirus infection, hospitalization, or more severe symptoms of the disease.

Gönen says their study highlights that the vitamin should be included in coronavirus treatment programs. “Vitamins are essential for organisms, but they are mainly supplied by food. Vitamin D is an exception and its levels are low in food. Most vitamin D can be derived from sunlight, so it is important to be exposed to the sun, at least between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the summer, up to three times a week, and for periods of up to 3 p.m. ‘at 20 minutes,’ he said.

Gönen said vitamin levels were low, especially in large cities and among people working in buildings with little sunlight. However, it warns that excessive vitamin D supplementation also has side effects, such as kidney stones and premature aging.


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