The slight discomfort that comes from wearing a mask on a hot summer day is a small price to pay for protecting oneself from the coronavirus, Turkey’s pandemic task force member has said. 

Dr. Afsin Emre Kayipmaz, a member of Turkey’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, told Anadolu Agency that a rise in coronavirus cases was witnessed after the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday as people used the opportunity to flock to beaches and attend wedding ceremonies, flouting social distancing rules.

Cases have risen 1.3 times compared to May when lockdown was still imposed in many parts of the country, Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Sunday.

Kayipmaz said it is crucial for the public to realize the severity of the virus, apply social distancing rules and wear masks.

“The threat of the pandemic is very much there, the vaccine is not ready yet, and so we are worried that people gathering in crowded spaces will reflect in the rising number of cases as of this weekend,” he said.

He warned people against using elevators without wearing a mask, saying by doing so they become a public health hazard.

Also, he said patients who should be in quarantine are walking around without a mask. “They should be penalized.”

Opening schools

The health official said no significant increase in the number of cases was observed after schools were opened in some countries that could implement the protective measures.

Noting that the health of children is the utmost priority, Kayipmaz said the common opinion of experts from the fields of medicine, psychology and education was that face-to-face education in schools is especially important for children of primary and secondary school age.

Referring to global practices, he said classroom sizes were cut down, good hand hygiene encouraged, and social distancing, wearing masks and taking temperature of staff and students made compulsory.

He noted that in countries such as France, Belgium, Greece, Taiwan and Vietnam, which implemented these measures, there was no significant increase in the number of cases after schools were opened.

However, he gave the example of Israel which saw a spike in cases after schools were opened with few restrictions.

He said that the Turkish government will make a decision on how to start classes in the country, considering the course of the epidemic, in the coming weeks.

Turkey to date has recorded a total of 240,804 confirmed coronavirus cases, and over 223,700 patients have recovered. The country’s death toll stands at 5,844, comparatively much lower than most of the European countries.

The pandemic has claimed over 731,000 lives in 188 countries and regions since it originated in China last December, according to US-based Johns Hopkins University.

More than 19.8 million infections have been reported worldwide, including over 12.1 million recoveries. The US, Brazil, and India have the highest number of cases — over 10 million in total.

* Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev

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