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  1. Invasive Fish in Turkish Waters: What We Need to Know

    By Alejandra Pousa, 23/07/21

    Climate change has brought about an alarming time of shift in the biota of coastal ecosystems with the tropicalization of the Mediterranean.
    Temperatures and high salinity levels used to act like a barrier between the Red Sea, the tropical Atlantic waters, and the Mediterranean. Whether because of accidental larval dispersal when emptying boat ballast tanks or active swimming, the fact remains that around 1,000 alien species have been introduced, and, once established, their spread can not be fully barred.
    Many of the newcomers are not only piscivores or molluscivores, with the consequent economic impact on native species, but also a number of them merit a word of warning for anglers and swimmers.
    Fugu, Pufferfish or Balon Balığı (Lagocephalus Sceleratus)

    This is an Indo-Pacific fish, one of the most invasive, and therefore considered a pest.
    Owner of a potent bite and a more potent poison, namely tetrodotoxin, fatal to humans when ingested. It does not inject the toxin by biting or through its spines but should be handled with gloves since the skin might have traces of the poison.
    Never attempt to clean it or remove the entrails (most of the tetrodotoxin is in the liver and gut) and least of all, eat it: cooking heat does not guarantee the denaturation of the poisonous protein.
    Toxicity symptoms: Generally occur within 10-45 minutes of ingestion and begin with numbness and tingling around the mouth, salivation, nausea, and vomiting. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
    Lion fish, Aslan Balığı, Zebra fish (Pteros Miles)

    Another visitor from the Indo Pacific was first spotted in 2012 in Lebanese waters and is here to stay.
    It has a high breeding rate (spawns every 4 days!) and a voracious appetite. On top of that, it does not seem to have many natural predators in our waters.
    Though not poisonous, it poses a hazard to fishermen and divers because of its spines (back, sides and underside) through which it delivers the venom. So consuming lionfish meat is safe provided you avoid getting stung when fishing or cleaning it.
    If stung: Gently remove the spine or pieces of it; clean the area with soap and water or some antiseptic. Apply heat (not more than 40 C to avoid burns) with a hot pack. Get medical attention as soon as possible since the pain is extreme, there is a risk of infection, and more importantly, of allergic reaction.
    Stone Fish, Taş Balığı (Synanceia Verrucosa)

    Originally an inhabitant of the Red Sea, it has been seen in Syria and in Iskenderun (2019).
    They lie half-buried among stones and corals or covered in mud or sand as part of their predatory strategy. They are difficult to distinguish from their surroundings. The most common interaction with humans is our accidentally stepping on them: they are armed with 13 dorsal spines which are part of their defense mechanism.
    Emergency medical attention is required and though hot water can be applied to interfere with the action of the venom, and thus relieve the pain, as well as cleaning and disinfecting the wound, applying antivenom is required.

  2. How Other Countries are Riding the COVID-19 Delta Variant Wave

    By Alejandra Pousa, 21/07/21

    Torn between protecting lives and livelihoods, as well as keeping their political images afloat, most governments are struggling to get people vaccinated as soon as possible. It is no secret now, that immunization is the only way to keep new infections at bay, and that the more the virus circulates, the more the probabilities of its mutating into a version fitter for survival, and hence more prone to outsmart the barrier that the current vaccines provide.
    The Delta variant, though not necessarily more devastating, is by far more contagious: the viral load of an individual suffering from Delta is estimated to be 1,000 times higher than common Covid. This viral load peaks at approximately 3.7 days from exposure to detection, during the phase when individuals present no symptoms. This means that we can make others sick more quickly, more efficiently and that the time frame of PCR tests should be shortened to 48 hours.
    As for populations, everyone is completely fed up with masking, social distancing, and any other preventive measures. Vaccine hesitancy, brought about by the different levels of distrust with which such measures are met, and the inability of different authorities of translating scientific jargon into something meaningful, add to the list of factors that complicate the already difficult situation.
    So, how are Europe and the U.S.coping with Delta?
    Currently undergoing a rise of 125% in cases per 100,000 per week with 80% of infections attributable to Delta.
    Macron's proposed compulsory vaccination for health workers plan met with 100,000 people taking to the streets to oppose it. As of today, the first phase of the health pass (digital evidence of certificate or negative pcr) comes into force with hefty fines and even prison for noncompliance.
    A target of 50 million first dose jabs to be administered until the end of August.
    Vaccination of the 12-17 group as of June 1st: only 20% showed up to receive the first dose and thus will not be fully protected until the end of October.
    Currently undergoing the perfect storm: Easter holidays; end of term student vacations; low rate of full vaccination (only 7.2%), and relaxation of preventive measures.
    Official figures say the strain accounts for 11% of cases which was met with skepticism by the experts who put the figure at 32% at least.
    Delta is now dominant in four main regions and many of them are considering reinstating measures to contain the spike in infections in the +15-30 group.
    To make matters worse, 40% of +60's are not fully vaccinated as well as 25% of the 40's-60's group who have only had one dose.
    On Monday, and despite the rise in infections - some 50,000 daily cases-, restrictions have been lifted, including masking and social distancing.
    69% of the population have received one jab and 52% are fully vaccinated.
    Whether betting strongly on herd immunity or high vaccination rates and perhaps hoping Covid has become a manageable threat, England is opening its economy. The government is being accused of recklessly exposing the population and running the risk of creating the conditions for the emergence of a new vaccine defense evading variant.
    The U.S.:
    83% of cases are now caused by Delta, strain which has been identified in all 50 states.
    49% of the population is fully vaccinated but the increase in infections is more dramatic in areas with relaxed precautions and higher vaccine hesitancy.
    Hospitalizations have increased. The majority are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people. The CDC reported that preliminary data suggested that 99.5% of deaths were unvaccinated people thus confirming Scottish findings: this strain is twice as likely to lead to hospitalization.

  3. COVID-19 Delta Variant: Fast and Furious

    By Alejandra Pousa, 20/07/21

    The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control in its threat assessment brief on the Delta variant has projections that indicate that, since it is more transmissible, by the end of August, 90% of infections in the EU will have been caused by this variant.
    Their modeling scenarios also confirm the following:
    Because of the increase in circulation of Delta, the overall risk of infection is considered to be low for fully vaccinated individuals and high to very high for partially or unvaccinated people. Any relaxation of preventive measures could lead to a fast and significant increase in daily cases in all age groups. Full vaccination of all age groups should be achieved as early as possible to reduce hospitalizations and deaths, thus keeping incidence at manageable levels. Older age groups (+50) and those with underlying co-morbidities are more likely to be hospitalized. Properly identifying and monitoring circulating Covid types is crucial for the early detection of emerging variants. Source: ECDC

  4. Turkish State Railways Resume Services

    By Alejandra Pousa, 16/07/21

    Turkish State Railways has resumed the operation of trains servicing 12 major routes and high-speed trains.
    These routes include three lines of touristic interest: the Van Gö Express, the connection to the Balkans, and the Eastern Express to Kars. These trains offer Pullman compartments, sleeper wagons, restaurant, cafeteria and group discounts, and Flexipass.
    Other lines being restarted after the curfews are: Southern Express (Kurtalan) to Diyarbakir and Batman; Pamukkale Express between İstambul and Denizli; 9th of September; Euphrates; Erciyes; Aegean; Konya Blue; İzmir Blue and the Lakes Express.
    Source: Sabah

  5. Vaccine Eligibility Now Lowered To 16 Years Old

    By Alejandra Pousa, 12/07/21

    Minister Koca announced via Twitter that the age eligibility for vaccination is now 16 years old.
    He expressed concern at the population's vaccine hesitancy, especially in provinces in the eastern and southeastern regions, where inoculation rates are below 55%. Since only one dose of vaccine has approximate effectiveness of 40% against the Delta variant, he added that such areas pose the risk of a new surge in cases come August/September.
    5,261 new cases have been reported in Turkey in the last 24 hours. 17.1 million people have been fully vaccinated; 2.8 million booster doses have been administered so far, and 37.6 million people have received one dose.
    Source: Hürriyet Daily News

  6. Taxes on Cars in Turkey

    By Alejandra Pousa, 12/07/21

    With a 9.11% increase versus last year's values, as of today and until August 2nd (because of the holiday), the government will receive payments for the second installment of the taxes on motor vehicles (MTV).
    As usual, it can be paid through personal automatic banking, with debit or credit cards, at any branch of the tax offices and branches of PTT.
    Source: NTV

  7. How Long Will This Year's Kurban Bayram Be?

    By Alejandra Pousa, 07/07/21

    2021's Kurban Bayram will last from Monday, July 19th till Friday, July 23rd. Thursday, July 15th is a national holiday too when democracy is celebrated. There have been no official announcements so far declaring Friday, July 16th a national holiday.
    Source: NTV

  8. Update on Number of COVID-19 Cases and Variants in Turkey

    By Alejandra Pousa, 07/07/21

    In his weekly message to the country, Minister Koca announced that the number of cases per a hundred thousand people has increased from 32.96 to 35.91. He underlined that the way out of the pandemic is vaccination, since, despite the general figures for the country, the areas where more people have been inoculated show an important decrease, such as the Black Sea provinces, Ankara, and Izmir.
    He also reported that 3 cases of the Delta Plus variant have recently been detected in Turkey, one of them in Istanbul, but did not disclose the location of the other two. As for the other variant, Delta, there has been an increment in the number of people affected by it - 284 cases -  and is now present in 30 provinces.
    There will not be extra preventive measures during the extended Kurban Bayram holiday. Instead, the government's goal is to have 70% of people older than 18 inoculated before the 15th. To this effect, he emphasized that 1.5 million doses of Pfizer are expected to arrive this Thursday and that there are 3 million doses of Sinovac in stock, enough to reach the other target too:  the third dose for those older than 50. The Minister added that the number of mobile units would be increased to reach rural areas and that refugees and registered foreigners were also being vaccinated.
    Source: Vatan Gazete

  9. +50's And Health Workers Booster Dose

    By Alejandra Pousa, 04/07/21

    Following Minister Koca's announcement, the appointments for +50's and health workers are now available, depending on the date of the last dose. What is more, anyone who received two doses sometime around May, for instance, and is over 50 years old, will see a message in the ''My Vaccinations'' window of the HES application showing the interval for the third dose.
    Sinovac or Biontech are optional as well as having it at a Hospital or a Sağlık Ocak.
    This is applicable to people who have been fully vaccinated or who have had Covid and therefore, can within 3 to 6 months, receive a booster shot.
    Source: Turk Klinik ve Mikrobiyology Derneğı

  10. Turkey Relaxes Covid Restrictions

    By Alejandra Pousa, 27/06/21

    As of Thursday July 1st most of the restrictions are lifted as follows:
    Curfews and intercity travel restrictions: lifted on Thursday at 05.00 a.m. Factories, offices, shops and cinemas: will open and be able to advertise their normal working hours provided they have due permits. The number of people at cafes and restaurants will not be limited provided the distance between chairs and tables, specified in the previous circular, is respected. Board games at cafes and social clubs are allowed. Nargile is not allowed. Parks, gardens and picnic premises will open as of Thursday. Weddings, Sunnet, Kına, Festivals, Concerts and other mass gatherings: allowed ensuring a distance between people of 4 m outdoors and 6 m. in indoor premises. Food and drink can be served. Live music: only until 12.00 p.m. Dancing: only if social distancing is observed. Public Transport: Social distancing, hygiene measures and masking will go on. Vehicles will work at 100% carrying capacity. +65 and -18 will be able to use public transport. Hotels, motels and pansyon: Both indoor and outdoor facilities will operate observing social distancing. Public Offices: will go back to normal working hours. Borders: Citizens from Bangladesh, Brasil, South Africa, India and Nepal will present a negative 72 hours prior to PCR test deemed enough to enter the country without being subject to quarantine. Citizens from Afghanistan and Pakistan are subject to 10 days obligatory quarantine but, if the PCR test to be made on the seventh day of confinement rendered negative results, they will not need to complete said confinement. Each province will decide where quarantines will be held as well as who will cover the costs. Travelers who do not present proof of negative PCR/quick antigen tests, or those who test positive, will be able to quarantine at their destination addresses. Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs

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