Marketplaces to be open on Saturdays

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Marketplaces in Turkey will be open on May 8 and May 15, but vendors will only be allowed to sell fruit and vegetables, the country’s Interior Ministry has announced.

The decision was taken in the face of the increased supply of agricultural products and assessments that there are problems associated with storing those goods and products which may go wasted if not sold, the ministry said in a directive on May 5.

The ministry, however, noted that vendors in marketplaces will not be allowed to sell other items, such as hygiene products, clothing, toys and glassware.

The ban on the sale of non-food items in marketplaces followed a similar restriction imposed on supermarkets.

In a recent directive, the Interior Ministry announced that supermarkets will only be allowed to sell essential goods during a full lockdown, which has caused confusion and triggered a public debate in the country.

The Interior Ministry said the rationale behind the ban is to prevent crowds at supermarkets in a bid to support efforts to bring the spread of COVID-19 under control.

According to the ministry’s directive, supermarkets will only sell essential food and hygiene products as well as pet food starting May 7. The sale of a wide range of products are banned, including electronic goods, toys, stationery materials, clothing, home textiles, hardware materials, auto parts and glassware.

Meanwhile, a top official from the ministry said cigarette sales in supermarkets are exempt from the ban.

After the ministry’s directive was issued, a public debate started on which goods are considered “essential” and which are not.

The ban immediately became a hotly debated issue on social media outlets.

People complained that they will need to buy light bulbs or batteries, asking why such items are not considered “essential goods,” while others noted that children are still taking online classes and they need stationeries.

However, the ministry explained that there are no restrictions on supermarkets’ online sales and those goods could be purchased on the internet.

The purpose of the newly introduced restrictions, the ministry said, is to prevent large gatherings at supermarkets at a time when the country is struggling to bring the number of infections down through a 17-day nationwide lockdown.

It reminded that grocery stores, butchers and snack shops as well as fruit and vegetable sellers will continue to operate between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to provide customers with their basic needs. Supermarkets, on the other hand, are allowed to operate six days a week but be closed on Sundays.

The confederation of Merchants and Craftsmen (TESK), which represents small businesses, welcomed the ban as a step taken in a right direction to remove an “unfair” practice.

Bendevi Palandöken, the head of TESK, urged people to buy items such as light bulbs and batteries from local stores to support small businesses.

But he called on the government to restrict online sales of supermarkets.

Erkan Aydın, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has supported the ban on supermarkets, but said it was insufficient, joining Palandöken in calling for online sale curbs.

The financial problems of businesses in his constituency of the northwestern province of Bursa have further worsened amid the lockdown, just like in other provinces, Aydın said.

“When people stop shopping from small stores in their neighborhoods, this puts those businesses’ future at risk. That is why the ban should also be extended to online sales,” he said.

Hurriyet Daily News

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