Turkey tightens coronavirus curbs as death toll hits record high

Turkey tightens coronavirus curbs as death toll hits record high

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a new round of tight restrictions in a bid to stem a surge in coronavirus infections, extending curfews to weeknights and imposing a full lockdown during the weekend.

After only reporting symptomatic cases for four months, Turkey last week resumed reporting all positive COVID-19 cases that saw logged daily infections jump to about 30,000.

On Monday, the number of daily new cases reached a record high of 31,219, while the COVID-19 death toll hit a record high for an eighth consecutive day, with 188 fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to figures from the health ministry.

General view of the deserted Ortakoy square, during a night-time curfew aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, in Istanbul [Ozan Kose/AFP] (AFP)Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Monday, Erdogan said a curfew would be implemented on weekdays between 9pm and 5am. He also announced total weekend lockdowns from 9pm on Friday evenings to 5am on Monday.

Grocery stores and food delivery services will be exempt from the lockdowns within certain hours.

In addition, people older than 65 or younger than 20 will no longer be permitted to use public transportation and shoppers would have to use a contact tracing code. Meanwhile, a maximum of 30 people will be able to attend weddings and funerals while New Year’s Eve public celebrations will be cancelled.

The new measures are scheduled to begin starting from Tuesday.

Weekend night-time curfews introduced on November 20 have done little to curb people’s movements, with Turkish media showing packed public spaces.

The health ministry announced on Monday that the number of infections in the country of 83 million people had exceeded 500,000. The total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic stood at 13,746.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) doubted the government’s figures, however, and estimated that there must be at least 50,000 new cases daily. The association also warned on Monday that state hospitals are at capacity, contradicting government statements that 70 percent of intensive care beds are occupied.