Turkey’s efforts to lure back tourists have resulted in one set of rules for locals and another for foreigners, the Economist reported on Friday.
Turkish authorities introduced strict new lockdown measures last month in an effort to curb a steep rise in COVID-19 infections, which had topped 60,000 new cases a day.
The measures dealt a further blow to the country’s tourism sector, a vital source of foreign currency for an already ailing economy.
But in a bid to restart the industry ahead of the crucial summer season, Turkish authorities have excluded foreign guests from many COVID-19 restrictions.
Tourists are free to swim in the Mediterranean, but locals doing the same have been fined 3,180 lira ($380), more than the monthly minimum wage, the Economist said.
“This is ridiculous,” Turkish banker Kaan Alpan told the magazine in Bodrum, a popular tourist destination. “If we had closed down correctly at the right time, we would have been able to open by now.”
The uneven rules have added to popular frustrations in Turkey, where the rollout of a mass vaccination programme has been repeatedly delayed by supply issues.
Turkey remains heavily reliant on the Chinese-made SinvoVac vaccine, but less than 27 million of a promised 100 million doses have arrived in the country, the Economist said.
As a result, only around 12.5 percent of Turkey’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to Health Ministry data.
On a visit to Germany last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said tourism workers would be given priority for jabs in an effort to allow for the safe return of foreign guests.
The comments prompted public outrage at the idea Turkey would reopen while its citizens remained under lockdown.
A video released on Thursday by the Turkish Tourism Ministry showing Turkish worker’s welcoming foreign guests while wearing masks emblazoned with the message: “Enjoy – I’m vaccinated” was removed following a backlash on social media.
“Turkey unlimited”, the Economist cited one satirical image circulating on the interest as saying. “Now available without Turks.”