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UPDATE 1-Turkey starts initial talks to procure Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine

Thu 25th March, 2021 8:09pm
(Adds daily case numbers, quotes, details, background)
    ANKARA, March 25 (Reuters) - Turkey has begun initial talks
to procure the Sputnik-V vaccine from Russia, Health Minister
Fahrettin Koca said on Thursday, adding Ankara would receive a
total of 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from various
suppliers by the end of May.
    "Initial talks have begun for the procurement of Sputnik-V.
This vaccine will be eligible for widespread use following the
testing process for its compatibility," Koca said, adding Ankara
was in talks with other vaccine providers.
    Turkey has until now been using COVID-19 vaccine shots
developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd  SVA.O  and it has
carried out 14.39 million inoculations, with 8.18 million people
having received a first dose, since Jan. 14 when the nationwide
rollout began. 
    "As of today, we have received 10 million doses of vaccines,
which will be filled in Turkey. By the end of May, we expect a
total of 100 million doses of vaccines to arrive in Turkey," he
said, without specifying where the additional 10 million came
    In a statement after a meeting with his coronavirus science
council, Koca also added that Turkey would be receiving 4.5
million doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer  PFE.N  and
BioNTech  22UAy.DE  by early April.*:nL1N2LM2GM
    Turkey recorded nearly 29,000 new infections in the last 24
hours, health ministry data showed on Thursday, just under this
year's highest level a day earlier. Case numbers have continued
to surge after restrictions were eased this month.*:nL8N2LM5VP
    Opposition parties and critics sharply criticised President
Tayyip Erdogan and his government on Wednesday for organising a
congress for the ruling AK Party with thousands of people, many
of whom were seen violating social distancing rules, not wearing
or improperly wearing masks.
    Social media footage showed hundreds of people being brought
to Ankara ahead of the congress in packed buses from across the
country, wearing no masks. The government also came under fire
last month for a crowded funeral, after which Koca issued an
    A columnist for the Haberturk daily said on Thursday that
the AK Party congress "could be Turkey's 'New Wuhan'," referring
to Chinese city where the outbreak first emerged in late 2019.
The term "lebalep", meaning "packed" in Turkish, was a top
trending topic on Twitter in Turkey as the congress was
    "The day you hold congresses like this, you cannot speak to
people about masks, hygiene," said Lutfu Turkkan, a deputy for
the opposition Iyi Party on Wednesday, while a lawmaker from the
main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) called the event
an "enmity to public health". 
    On Thursday, Koca urged citizens to wear masks and follow
social distancing measures.

 (Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Aurora Ellis)
 ((; +90 312 292 7021; @tuvangumrukcu;
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