Turkish experts predict a return to “relative normal” at the end of the summer as the novel coronavirus continues to affect people worldwide. 

Dr. Mustafa Necmi Ilhan, dean at Gazi University Medical School in the capital Ankara and a member of the Health Ministry’s Social Science Board, and Dr. Mustafa Cetiner, an internal medicine specialist, offered their insight to Anadolu Agency on the course of the pandemic and when life will return to normal.

Pointing out that it is not yet possible to say exactly when the pandemic will end, Ilhan said that looking at the current stage together with people complying with restrictions and the introduction of vaccinations, it is going “better” both in Turkey and in the world.

“We cannot say when the pandemic will end precisely, but that will happen when 60%-70% of the society develops antibodies against the coronavirus, in other words, what we call ‘herd immunity’ occurs,” he said.

“This is most likely through immunization.”

Highlighting that Turkey has reported over 2 million coronavirus cases so far, Ilhan said: “It is possible to say that when we reach an immunization level of about 60%-70%, there will be less transmission of the coronavirus between people.”

‘Better normal’

While pointing out that the number of cases also started to drop in the last two weeks, Ilhan said this should not cause complacency in society as the risk of contracting the disease is still quite high.

“If people do not wear a mask because ‘I have been vaccinated or overcame the disease,’ do not comply with social distancing, if they are in a crowd, if they do not pay attention to hygiene, they should know that there will always be a risk of [contracting] the coronavirus,” he warned.

“When we reach a certain level in vaccination and the society obeys the precautionary rules, we can lead a relatively normal life at the end of the summer months,” he said.

He added that “a better normal life” compared to the current conditions depends solely on compliance with the level and measures reached in social immunization.

‘Vaccination does not mean normal life in a day’

For his part, Cetiner said that if the virus mutates and contagiousness increases, individual measures such as masks, social distancing and hand hygiene are among the most effective solutions to prevent the disease.

Noting that vaccines are the biggest weapon and the key to exiting the pandemic, he said: “However, unfortunately, it is not possible for us to return to our normal daily lives in one day with vaccines.

“It will take time to achieve widespread immunization and community immunity,” he said.

“When will the pandemic end? When will the virus become harmless? When will the measures end? Unfortunately, it is not possible to give a clear date.”

According to Cetiner, returning to normal depends on variables such as the effectiveness of common vaccination programs, the desire or adaptation of the society to be vaccinated, the continuation of compliance with the most basic measures during this period, how long vaccines will provide immunity and whether there will be new mutations.

Cetiner predicted the earliest time for the return to normal is late summer or the fall of 2021.

He recalled remarks by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, who said that with mass coronavirus vaccination programs, a return to normal might start from October 2021.

Pointing out that in the case of vaccination, measures should be continued for a while, Cetiner said it is “because we still do not know how much vaccines prevent contagion.”

“Even if we are vaccinated, we may risk infecting someone else with COVID-19,” he said. “Vaccines are not 100% protective, and herd immunity will take time to be gained.

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