Turkey imposes partial Ramadan lockdown amid record cases

Turkish president warns of further measures if new restrictions fail to bring infections down

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AFP
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday announced a partial lockdown for the first two weeks of Ramadan as the number of Covid-19 infections hit a record.

In a televised address after a Cabinet meeting, Mr Erdogan said the government was re-imposing bans on intercity travel and barring people over 65 and under 18 from using public transport.

It was also changing public-sector working hours, closing sports and leisure centres and expanding night-time curfews.

Schools will return to online education, apart from classes preparing for high school and university entrance exams.

Weddings, engagement parties and other gatherings will be barred until after the Eid Al Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, Mr Erdogan said.

He said that crowded iftars, or Ramadan fast-breaking dinners, would not be allowed.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported 59,187 new infections in a single day, the highest since the start of Turkey’s outbreak.

It also reported 273 deaths. Turkey now ranks among the worst-hit countries.

Single-day infections have increased more than five-fold since March, while the number of deaths and seriously ill Covid-19 patients has also been steadily increasing.

Turkey has reported more than 34,000 Covid-19 deaths, but like many countries, experts say official figures underestimate the toll.

“The increasing number of cases and deaths, especially in the larger cities, is steering us toward tightening measures again,” Mr Erdogan said.

“Even though the situation isn’t affecting our health system, we could not remain a spectator to this state of events.”

Turkish health professionals would dispute the claim. They have been saying the surge in cases is putting a strain on hospitals.

Mr Erdogan said the restrictions take effect on Wednesday evening and that there would be more measures should the new restrictions fail to bring infections down.

“If we don’t achieve the improvement at the rate we target during the two-week period, much harsher measures will become inevitable,” he said.

Mr Erdogan wants to bring infection rates down before the start of Turkey’s crucial summer tourist period, after a dismal season last year.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 85 per cent of the cases in Turkey coud be traced to the faster-spreading variant that was first detected in Britain.

Turkish opposition parties are also putting some of the blame on Mr Erdogan, whose ruling party held mass political rallies across the country, disregarding the government’s virus restrictions.

The Justice and Development Party rejects the accusations.

In early March, Mr Erdogan eased Covid-19 restrictions under a “controlled normalisation” programme to minimise the effects on his nation’s ailing economy.

The relaxing of measures came despite a warning from doctors that it was premature.

As the numbers soared by late March, Mr Erdogan reimposed weekend lockdowns in 58 of Turkey’s 81 worst-hit provinces, and closed cafes and restaurants apart from take-away meals during Ramadan.

Updated: April 14, 2021 01:31 AM


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