Turkey’s government may be forced to re-introduce some measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 as daily infections persisted at around the highest levels in more than three months.
The country registered 26,597 infections on Tuesday, the Health Ministry said. Cases have remained above 20,000 since late July and hit 26,882 a week ago, the most since May 4. Daily deaths have exceeded 100 over the past eight days, the highest level since early June.
Turkey’s government ended daily curfews and travel restrictions at the start of July, when new cases numbered less than 5,000 per day. As infections climbed again, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has ruled out any immediate resumption of the measures. Infections surged to a record of more than 63,000 per day in April.
The government is discussing the possibility of new restrictions in September as it expects that daily cases may exceed 30,000 by the time schools reopen, the Hürriyet Daily News said on Tuesday.
Officials said that the government is unlikely to alter pandemic policies during the tourism season, but some rules may be applied from the second half of next month, the newspaper reported. They will come up with a list of rules to be implemented for indoor venues, schools, state institutions and businesses in September and November, it said. Schools in Turkey are due to re-open on Sept. 6.
The Turkish government is relying on the tourism industry to help drive economic growth and to bring in foreign currency revenues needed to defend the lira. The currency has hit successive record lows against the dollar over the past year.
Turkey suspended annual leave for all health workers in the tourist region of Antalya on Monday as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. The number of cases in Antalya, Turkey’s most visited tourist destination, is at least three or four times greater than official data, Nursel Şahin, the head of a top medical association for the region, told Halk TV last week. An influx of Russian tourists, who have low vaccination rates, means the delta variant of the virus is dominating, she said.
Hürriyet said people may be required to take PCR tests to enter indoor venues as part of the measures under consideration. Rules for some 3.3 million civil servants will also be set, including a requirement for PCR tests, which will be provided free of charge, it said.
The government is encouraging people in the country of about 85 million to ensure they get vaccinated.
Vaccination rates in Turkey are below averages in Europe. Turkey has administered a total of 79.5 million vaccines, with 30.8 million people, or about 36 percent of the population, receiving two jabs, according to Health Ministry figures. The EU average is 52 percent, according to Our World in Data.