Istanbul residents should remain at home because recent data on COVID-19 cases shows high transmission rates, said Ekrem İmamoğlu, the opposition mayor of Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul.
“Easing the restrictions should not cause complacency in any way, and everyone should strictly obey the warnings and precautions,” İmamoğlu said on Sunday in a social media video.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Friday that Istanbul’s hospitals had seen an increase in patients requiring treatment for the virus.
“The Health Ministry’s announcement regarding the increase in the spread of the pandemic in İstanbul, also tells us that we need to be very, very careful, as the vaccination rate has not yet reached a large amount of the population,” İmamoğlu said.
Last week, the authorities announced plans to gradually end COVID-19 restrictions, including lifting weekend lockdowns in cities deemed at low and medium risk. Cities in high and very high-risk categories will continue to implement lockdowns on weekdays and on Saturdays.
Istanbul remains in the high-risk category and is therefore due only to partially reopen from Sunday.
Istanbul is Turkey’s largest and most economically important city, with more than 15 million inhabitants, about a fifth of the country’s population.
According to health ministry data, COVID-19 related deaths increased by 65 to 29,030 on March 7. The total number of confirmed cases reached 2,780, 417 after 11,187 new daily cases.
Over 7.5 million citizens have received a vaccine under a mass-roll out campaign launched in mid-January. That is less than 10 percent of the population.