Checks tightened amid curbs, surge in virus cases

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Turkey has ramped up inspections to make sure the public is obeying to the anti-virus curbs introduced last week in the wake of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The government announced several new restrictions and a partial lockdown for the first two weeks of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan after the daily coronavirus cases crawled up to record highs.

As part of those restrictions, restaurants and cafés are now only allowed to provide takeout and delivery services.
Nationwide weekend lockdowns lasted from 7 p.m. on April 16 to 5 a.m. on April 19.

Security forces, including the police and gendarmerie units as well as municipal law enforcement officers, were out in the field in all 81 provinces of the country over the weekend for checks.

In the past weeks, people tended to ignore curbs and violated the weeknight curfews and lockdowns, particularly in large cities, such as Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir.

The tighter inspections this time round appeared to work as the main squares and avenues were largely empty.

Some 20,000 policemen and gendarmerie officers took part in the inspections in the country’s most crowded city Istanbul, which once again became the epicenter of the outbreak in Turkey.

Security units carried out checks at nearly 380 locations across the city and tightened inspections on the famous İstiklal Avenue, popular with tourists and locals. The scene of the overcrowded İstiklal Avenue despite lockdowns alarmed experts. However, this weekend the avenue was visibly empty thanks to the checks.

Foreign tourists are exempted from the lockdown, but the police warned those taking a stroll along the avenue to wear face masks and observe social distancing measures and fined those without face masks.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu held a meeting with officials in Istanbul to discuss the fight against COVID-19 in the city.

“We will be out in the field with our full force,” Soylu said, adding that violators will not be tolerated.

He stressed that the restrictions apply to all citizens with certain exceptions. Soylu recalled that some people use doing shopping as a pretext to venture out. “Do not tolerate this,” he told the officials.

The minister also stressed that foreigners with residency permits are also subjected to restrictions and lockdowns and they have to obey the rules just like locals.

Foreigners with residency permits are presenting their passports to dodge the restrictions, Soylu noted.

“I have the authority to revoke the residency permits of those who try to exploit this situation pretending to be tourists. We will not let this to happen,” the minister said.

To date, the coronavirus has infected more than 4.2 million people and killed nearly 36,000 people in Turkey.

Hurriyet Daily News

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