Turkey urges discipline ahead of new COVID-19 curfews

Man wearing a protective mask stands in front of a fish and bread restaurant in Istanbul
FILE PHOTO: Man wearing a protective mask stands in front of a fish and bread restaurant, amid the spread of COVID-19 in Istanbul, Turkey November 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

November 18, 2020

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s government urged “tight discipline” on Wednesday as the country prepared for new weekend curfews, online schooling and limits on restaurants and cafes that are to begin Friday evening and last through year end to contain the pandemic.

President Tayyip Erdogan announced the tighter restrictions on Tuesday in response to a coronavirus surge that has brought reported daily cases https://tmsnrt.rs/3nAYinX and deaths https://tmsnrt.rs/35LkG8h to levels last seen in late April, just after the initial peak.

“Without losing anything, the virus has gone into the mass infection period,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters in parliament. “It seems we must put our lives under tight discipline for some time,” broadcasters quoted him as saying.

COVID-19 has killed a total of 11,704 in Turkey according to official figures that opposition lawmakers and medical groups have criticised for masking the true scale of the outbreak.

The government – which since July has not reported confirmed asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 – said there were 3,819 new symptomatic patients and 103 deaths on Tuesday.

GRAPHIC: Coronavirus cases in Turkey on the rise Turkey’s pandemic approaching second peak – https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/TURKEY-CASES/oakvexekdpr/chart.png

GRAPHIC: Turkey’s daily COVID-19 deaths on the rise – https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/TURKEY-DEATHS/jznvnnlwmvl/chart.png

In a notice, the interior ministry said restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and shopping malls will only operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. locally (0700 GMT to 1700 GMT). For dining, only takeaway and delivery services will be allowed.

Under the new curbs, which will take effect from 8 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Friday, cinemas will be closed and schools will provide online education for the rest of the year.

A partial weekend lockdown will be imposed nationwide until further notice, the ministry said, adding these would not disrupt supply and production chains.

Meral Aksener, leader of the opposition Iyi Party, said the new measures were insufficient. “I am calling to the ruling party from here: the pandemic looks out of control. The picture in Istanbul is a total catastrophe,” she said.

She urged a 14-day nationwide lockdown and reiterated a call by Istanbul’s mayor who said virus deaths in the city alone outstrip reported nationwide figures. Istanbul reported 9,872 pandemic-related deaths as of Nov. 14 compared to the national government’s reported 11,418, she said.

“There is something off with this because there is no transparency, no honesty,” Aksener told her party’s lawmakers in parliament.

(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun, Ali Kucukgocmen and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Jonathan Spicer)