Turkey has detected the first cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the country’s health minister has said, calling on people to remain calm but vigilant.
“One of the [Omicron] cases was in Istanbul and the other five cases were in [the western province of] İzmir,” Fahrettin Koca told lawmakers in parliament on Dec. 11 during discussions on the Health Ministry’s 2022 budget.
İzmir is Turkey’s third largest province by population.
Those people who contracted the Omicron had very mild symptoms and did not need to be hospitalized, Koca said, adding that there were treated as outpatients.
“Our citizens should not be worried. We observe that the Omicron variant is more transmissible, but it causes less severe cases,” the minister said.
He called on people to continue to adhere to the anti-virus measures.
In the wake of the emergence of the Omicron strain, Turkey acted immediately and imposed a travel ban on Nov. 26 on five African nations, including Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
Turkey saw a surge in COVID-19 cases in April, with daily infections hitting record levels of 60,000. Thanks to stricter measures introduced, the pandemic situation in the country improved considerably in the following weeks. The number of daily cases declined to around 5,000 in June.
However, they once again picked up starting in July. In October, the country recorded around 30,000 daily cases but they dropped to around 20,000 in early December and have been hovering around at those levels.
Earlier, Koca once again called on the public to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, warning against misinformation anti-vaxxers are spreading.
“Those who are influenced by anti-vaxxers and are skipping their shots are having very difficult times [when they are in contact with the virus] even if they are young and do not have chronic illnesses,” the minister wrote on Twitter on Dec. 11.