Turkey launches COVID-19 testing program for unvaccinated people

As of Monday, travelers, spectators, moviegoers and people attending crowded events in Turkey are required to show negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) results if they are not vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The new measure, announced last month, aims to reduce the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the country, which reached 19,391 on Sunday, with 269 deaths. As of March 2020, Turkey has reported more than 6 million cases and more than 52,000 deaths. With vaccination seen as the only way to fight the pandemic, authorities are looking to strengthen the vaccination program and encourage more people to get vaccinated. To date, over 97 million doses have been administered.

Under the new regulations, people who have not been vaccinated and those who have not been infected with the coronavirus in the past will be required to present negative PCR test results for flights, intercity buses, train travel and travel by. other means of public transport. Companies operating flights and offering land travel will require passengers to submit negative PCR test results issued no more than 48 hours prior to travel. People who cannot provide negative test results will not be allowed on planes, trains and buses. Test results can be verified via the Life Fits Into Home (HES) code stored in the eponymous Ministry of Health app available on smartphones.

Teams from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure will also regularly check public transport vehicles traveling between cities for people breaking the rules. People not eligible for vaccines, including children and infants, will be allowed to travel. In airports, PCR test booths are set up for passengers. Vaccination is already widely available in the country at vaccination points set up everywhere, from hospitals and neighborhood clinics, to squares in towns and villages.

When the program was launched, hospitals were filled with unvaccinated people, looking for vaccines before the trip. Güven Halisdemir was one of the “victims” of the new rules. Halisdemir was scheduled to fly to Nevşehir province from Istanbul for his honeymoon with his wife, but he only had one dose of the vaccine while his wife had both doses. “They asked me for a PCR test. My wife got on the plane and I will take another flight, ”he told the Ihlas News Agency (IHA) at Istanbul Airport on Monday. Sedat Atak, another passenger traveling with his wife was unaware of the requirement of the test. “My wife is pregnant, so she had to skip the second dose. But they didn’t allow us to get on board. We have rescheduled our flight and my wife will be tested, ”Atak said.

Nurbanu Demirtaş, a medical student, hailed the PCR requirement as she was about to board a train to Istanbul from the northwestern province of Edirne. “I’m glad they’re checking people now. You’re traveling with people you don’t know and you can’t be sure if the person sitting next to you is vaccinated or not,” she told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Proof of PCR tests carried out no later than 48 hours before will also be required for viewing films in the cinema, plays in the theater and for entry into concert halls.

Also from Monday, employers are allowed to ask their employees for a negative weekly PCR test if they are not vaccinated.

Turkey is grappling with an increase in the number of cases after a COVID-19 lockdown managed to contain a previous wave of infections. After the start of a normalization process that lifted curfews and most other restrictions, cases were fluctuating around 20,000. Although the vaccination program, along with standardization, was opened to more tranches. of age (now covering all ages above 15), the vaccine reluctance prevailing in some provinces is causing concern. Experts say mass immunity is needed to overcome the devastating impact of the pandemic and is only possible with mass vaccination.

The last weekly figures for August, announced by the Ministry of Health on Sunday evening, indicated a constant evolution of cases. Rize and Bayburt provinces recorded the largest increase in the number of weekly cases per 100,000 for the week between August 21 and 27, to 614 and 473, respectively. They are followed by Nevşehir, Kayseri, Kilis, Trabzon, Aksaray, Gaziantep, Bolu and Tokat. “You have to be more careful if you are in one of these provinces,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted on Sunday.

Aydın, Muğla, Antalya, Izmir and Kırklareli had the fewest weekly cases of COVID-19.

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