A small province in Turkey’s Black Sea region leads the country in the number of weekly coronavirus cases per 100,000 population. The latest figures from the Department of Health show that Rize recorded 653 cases per 100,000 during the week between August 28 and September 3. The causes of the high rate vary for the province, which has a population of over 340,000. The results of contact tracing teams, however, point to one constant factor: infections within families. “The villages are full of people living in nearby neighborhoods,” said the governor of the province, Kemal Çeber.
Rize was among the Black Sea provinces with a high number of coronavirus cases earlier this year and joined them in dropping the number of cases after the government reintroduced strict measures in the spring and a 17-day lockdown. An accelerated vaccination program has also helped him reduce the numbers. Still, false relief after the normalization process, which began in July, has apparently taken its toll. Cases per 100,000 were around 614 during the last week of August in the province whose population has increased due to temporary migration from all over Turkey for the annual tea harvest in this’ tea capital. From Turkey. Authorities are counting on reverse migration to ease the toll of the pandemic.
Governor Çeber says they see “undesirable leadership” in the country. Çeber said the population increased dramatically in the summer and reached nearly 700,000 people. “It’s crowded everywhere, from the villages to the highlands. We are seeing more cases because more people are being tested, ”he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Sunday.
Built on a geographically challenged area dotted with mountains, the structure of residential areas in Rize is also making the pandemic worse. Çeber says they lack large spaces where people can adhere to social distancing, raising concerns about population density.
“You can easily see the fallout from a high population. Nowadays, you can’t even find a place to park your car. We have so many people coming from other provinces because of the tea harvest, ”says Fazlı Kutmen, a local resident. “Some people are going back to the big cities because the new school year has started, but some are reluctant to leave Rize,” he added.
Coşkun Koto, a trader, says it would take at least another month for Rize to return to its original population. Haşmet Uzun, another resident, complains about the reckless behavior of people.
“I was about to sit next to an elderly man on a bench in a park and he told me not to go near him because he had COVID-19. I then alerted the police. People are reckless. They go to weddings, to other crowded places even when they are infected, ”he complained.
Davut Ahmetoğlu, another resident, also criticized people from other provinces for joining their relatives for the tea harvest and for weddings. “People tend to stay together here. We have strong family ties here and people also tend to kiss without wearing masks. This naturally increases the possibility of infections, ”he says.
Although Rize has the highest numbers, it is still behind ten other provinces that have seen the largest increase in weekly cases. Kayseri in central Turkey and Elazığ in the east lead the list of provinces with the largest increase. In large cities, the weekly figures are relatively lower. Istanbul recorded around 156 cases per 100,000 between August 28 and September 3, while it was 242 for the capital Ankara and 45 for the western province of Izmir.
As of March 2020, Turkey has reported more than 6 million cases of COVID-19 while the number of people lost to the coronavirus has exceeded 52,000. Daily cases have increased in the past two months and are now at about 22,000.
Authorities are concerned about the public reluctance to vaccinate and neglect when it comes to obeying mandatory mask and social distancing rules, two factors behind the recent wave. On the positive side, the number of doses administered has exceeded 101 million in the country’s immunization program. The government also recently introduced mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for inter-city travel and for entry into crowded places for unvaccinated people with the aim of promoting non-compulsory vaccination.