Hundreds of thousands of people packed Turkey’s beaches to enjoy the sunny weather over the Eid al-Adha holiday despite warnings from public health experts, reigniting fears that large crowds could hamper the country’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“The first wave arrived in beaches. Let’s be careful on vacation,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said over Twitter, stressing on the need to pay attention to social distancing in a separate tweet.
The four-day Eid al-Adha holiday, which ends on Aug. 3, saw millions of people traveling inside the country, with packed crowds on the beaches especially on the Aegean and the Mediterranean shores.
The Aegean province of Muğla’s Akyaka town, which was admitted to the International Slow City Association in 2010 and declared a slow city (cittaslow), was said to have been crowded more than ever.
The beaches in the town were packed with social distancing rules being ignored, while the entrances and exits to the tourism hotspot were blocked. Those who were unable to find a place to swim along the beach filled the creek of Kadın Azmağı, where swimming is prohibited.
Similar crowds were also observed in the Aegean province of İzmir’s Çeşme, Urla and Foça districts, while there were no vacant places on the beaches in the Black Sea towns near Istanbul, due to the visit of day-trippers.
Speaking to daily Hürriyet columnist Osman Müftüoğlu, Dr. Mehmet Ceyhan said people walking down the streets in the popular resort town of Bodrum, as well as others working at shops, avoided wearing face masks.
Minister warns against new symptoms
Meanwhile, Minister Koca told Müftüoğlu that the symptoms in cases diagnosed in recent weeks are slightly different than those seen in the early days of the outbreak.
“Diarrhea and muscle pain have become common symptoms. It also became clear that one of the main problems in patients who lost their lives was clotting,” he said, emphasizing that new strategies are being prepared in this regard.
Underlining that he believed the virus still retained its old strength, Koca said that it would be a major mistake to think the virus was less effective than before.
“It is difficult to say that we have any scientific data or clinical observations that show that the disease proceeds milder than before,” Koca noted.
Noting that Turkey does not intend to reduce the number of tests carried out for COVID-19, the minister said as many tests as possible will be performed.
“By detecting cases earlier, we will prevent the spread [of the coronavirus] and facilitate treatment,” Koca said.
“Our filiation teams are still working on the field. We had highly experienced teams in our hospitals”, he said, adding that the experienced filiation teams are now much more successful in treatment than in the beginning.
The “filiation” method Koca was referring to consists of meticulously finding those that could potentially be infected with the virus, due to their contact with a COVID-19-positive patient.
Stressing that Turkey has a strong stock of medicines, Koca said that four different domestic pharmaceutical companies have been licensed for the production of the antiviral drug named Favipiravir.
He also emphasized that by producing Favipiravir, the country’s own domestic needs can be met, and even the possibility of exports may arise.