LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus 

Turkish Cypriot authorities hope to start vaccinating the country’s population against the novel coronavirus by Jan. 15 at the latest, the country’s top health official told Anadolu Agency Wednesday.

The government aims to have 60% of its population immunized to the virus by March, Health Minister Ali Pilli said, underlining that the fight against COVID-19 continues in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), as well as in Turkey.

“We’ll conduct the vaccination program with Turkey. […] I discussed with [Turkish Health] Minister Koca that we’d start the first vaccinations next week at the latest. We’ll first administer these vaccines to healthcare professionals and nursing home residents,” added Pilli.

He noted that the vaccines, which had been sent by Turkey, would be administered at Dr. Burhan Nalbantoglu Hospital, Lefkosa Emergency Hospital and other health centers.

Pilli also said the TRNC on Tuesday had sent samples to Turkey to test for a recent new strain of the coronavirus that was first reported in the UK recently, adding that cases of the variant had emerged in the Greek Cypriot administration, as well as other countries.

Though not ruling out the possibility of imposing new measures against the virus in the country, he said a full lockdown was not currently necessary.

“If necessary, we may impose a lockdown for 15-20 days for public health and to end the pandemic sooner,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more than 1.87 million lives in 191 countries and regions since it originated in China last December.

Over 86.5 million cases have been reported worldwide, with more than 48.5 million recoveries, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

The US, India, and Brazil remain the worst-hit countries in terms of cases.

*Writing by Seda Sevencan

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