Lockdown ends, gradual normalization starts in Turkey

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A 15-day period of gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Turkey has started as of early on May 17, as infections began falling thanks to a strict lockdown.

The 17-day full lockdown, which covered the remainder of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as well as three days of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, ended as of 5 a.m. local time (0200GMT).

Turkey imposed the full lockdown, which began on April 29, after the number of daily COVID-19 cases climbed to above 60,000 and the deaths from the outbreak also reached record highs.

In the wake of the lockdown, the number of daily infections declined sharply, easing to below 20,000 on May 8. The Health Ministry reported that the number of cases hovered around at 11,000 since May 13.

Curbs during normalization

During the gradual normalization period, there will be weekday curfews from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., while weekend curfews will last from 9 p.m. on Fridays until 5 a.m. on Mondays.

Inter-city travel will be allowed outside of curfew hours, the ministry said in a directive, which was sent to the offices of the governors in all of the country’s 81 provinces.

People will be able to travel by bus, plane or train between provinces during the curfews, but special permissions will be required for inter-city travel on private vehicles during the curfews.

There will be no special restrictions on people aged 65 and over who have already had two doses of COVID-19 vaccines or those under 18, according to the ministry.

Restaurants and cafes will be only allowed to provide takeaway and delivery services between weekdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. On weekends, they will offer delivery service only from 7 a.m. to midnight.

Other venues and businesses, including bars, swimming pools, wedding halls, gyms, movie theaters, will remain shut until June.

However, shopping malls will only receive customers on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., but they will be closed on weekends.

The ministry also said that supermarkets will not sell non-essential items on weekends, but online markets will operate through 7 a.m. and midnight throughout the week.

Some experts warned about potential risks from the gradual normalization. “Virus cases have declined as much as 50 percent in Istanbul. But we are concerned about people returning from their hometowns and resort towns back to the city. The main risk in Istanbul stems from public transport and workplaces, such as factories,” Professor Tufan Tükek, the dean of Istanbul Medical School, told daily Milliyet.

Duran Tok, a medical doctor specialized in infectious diseases, noted that the number of daily cases should decline to around 1,000 to breathe a sigh of relief.

People will flock to the streets because of what he described as “post-quarantine syndrome,” Tok said, adding that the number of infections may increase again at the end of May.

To date, COVID-19 has infected more than 5.1 million and killed over 44,500 people in Turkey.

Hurriyet Daily News

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