Coronavirus: Turkey hits second peak as fresh restrictions imposed

Number of Covid-19 deaths are the highest since mid-May and new cases have risen to mid-June levels

epa08620361 A child walks near the Bosphorus backdropped by the Galata Tower at sunset  in Istanbul, Turkey, 23 August 2020. Turkish authorities have now allowed the reopening of restaurants, cafes, parks and beaches, as well as lifting the ban on inter-city travel, as the country eases the restrictions it had imposed in a bid to stem the spread of the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.  EPA/ERDEM SAHIN
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Turkey was experiencing the second peak of its novel coronavirus outbreak, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday, while the government announced new restrictions on weddings and other social gatherings as daily cases and deaths from the virus were rising rapidly.

Fatalities have jumped to numbers not seen since mid-May, when lockdowns were in place, and daily new cases have risen to mid-June levels, at almost 1,600. Turkey mostly reopened its economy and lifted weekend and age-specific lockdowns in early June.

The number of new cases rose by 1,596 to 273,301 in the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data released on Wednesday, while the death toll from the virus rose by 45 to 6,462.

Mr Koca told a press conference after meeting his coronavirus science team that the capital, Ankara, had seen the most rapid rise in cases lately, producing double the numbers of Istanbul, previously the centre of Turkey's outbreak.

"We are going through the second peak of the first wave of coronavirus. The carelessness at weddings and religious holidays has brought us to this point," Mr Koca said. But he ruled out returning to lockdowns to curb the outbreak.

Following Mr Koca's remarks, the government announced new restrictions on weddings, limiting their duration to one hour and banning all food and drinks. It also banned the attendance of senior citizens and children at such gatherings.

"The virus is spreading to more people each day. Our test numbers are rising every day, our new patient numbers are not falling," Mr Koca said. Nearly 30,000 health workers were infected while 52 have died, he said.

Doctors and medical groups have said some hospitals were at capacity. At the weekend, the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara accused the government of playing down the scale of the pandemic, citing local information.

The Turkish Medics Association said last month that based on antibody tests, the number of coronavirus patients was likely about 10 times more than the official tally.

Mr Koca stood by the accuracy of official tallies and urged people to be more cautious.