Turkey close to achieving ‘mass immunity’ against COVID-19 – official

Turkey achieved 25 percent “mass immunity” of its population against COVID-19, either through vaccinations or infection, said Professor Mustafa Necmi İlhan, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board.

The World Health Organisation says 60 percent to 70 percent of the population needs to have immunity in order to get the pandemic under control and Turkey is expected to reach that figures by autumn, İlhan told the state-run Anadolu news agency on Tuesday.

Turkey’s government is under political pressure after cases of COVID-19 surged to a record high of more than 60,000 last month, forcing it to re-tighten measures against the virus. Turkey ranks fifth globally for cases of COVID-19 behind the United States, India, Brazil and France, according to Worldometer.

Turkey has inoculated 14.25 million people with a first dose of the jab, while 9.82 million have received a second dose, according to Health Ministry data as of Wednesday. It has a population of almost 85 million. The number of recovered patients totals 4.55 million, the data showed.

The country has been implementing a mass immunity strategy since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, İlhan said.

Considering that 23 million people in Turkey are under the age of 18, the remaining 60 million people should be vaccinated in order to achieve the mass immunity target, he said.

“By the inoculation of citizens over the age of 40, the mortality rates due to the virus are predicted to decrease significantly,” İlhan said.

COVID-19 infections in Turkey have more than halved on a daily basis from the record high in the middle of last month, after the government re-introduced restrictions on the population during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry recorded 28,997 new cases. Infections since the outbreak total 4.92 million. The death toll reached 41,527, with 336 mortalities reported on Tuesday.

Infections in Turkey have increased from less than 10,000 per day after the government eased curbs on the population on March 1. On April 15, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reversed course, announcing a longer two-week evening curfew to coincide with the start of Ramadan.

The government introduced new restrictions on Thursday in a nationwide "full closure" until May 17, when Ramadan and a religious holiday end. The steps included the closure of all non-essential businesses, restrictions on intercity travel, banning the sale of alcohol and shutting down schools.