Turkey will reintroduce weekend containment measures in most provinces and impose restrictions during the holy month of Ramadan following the sudden increase in covid-19 infections.
Cases of the new coronavirus in Turkey increased again less than a month after the authorities divided the 81 provinces into four categories of color codes and relaxed restrictions in several provinces, in an effort to “controlled normalization”.
The confirmed number of daily infections has since tripled to about 30,000, reaching the record numbers that occurred in December. The country with around 84 million inhabitants also officially records 150 deaths per day, compared with about 65 earlier this month.
In a television message on Monday after a Government meeting, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that 58 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara, have now been designated as “red” or “very high risk” areas, and will be subjected to confinement on Saturdays and Sundays.
He also announced that the night curfew, in force in the entire country, will continue.
On March 2, only 17 provinces were in the “red” category, when schools partially restarted face-to-face education, cafes and restaurants were allowed to reopen at half capacity, and curfews were relieved in several cities.
“The increase in the number of cases and patients and also the increase in the number of deaths forced us to review the existing measures,” said Erdogan in a message to the country.
“The number of provinces that are in the red category, which constitutes the category of very high risk, reached 58, representing 80% of the population,” he added.
Erdogan said that “in the month of Ramadan it will be necessary to make some sacrifices”, and added that restaurants and cafes can only operate on a ‘take-away’ basis during the holy month, which begins in Turkey on April 13.
Erdogan also announced that concentrations of people for meals before sunrise and after sunset will be banned.
However, the Turkish Medical Association considered that the increase in infections was caused by deficiencies in screening, in the Government’s reluctance to impose measures at the right time and to exclude economic concerns, and in a premature relaxation of restrictions.
“We, as healthcare professionals and society, are paying for these wrong policies,” the group said on Twitter.
Erdogan was widely criticized for having promoted his party’s congresses across the country within overcrowded sports complexes, despite the new outbreak of covid-19 cases.
He was accused of dual criteria due to the fact that he ignored the rules of prevention, including social distance, imposed by the Government and in one of these events, Erdogan congratulated himself for the high number of participants. Critical voices consider that political rallies have contributed to the increase in cases.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters today that he saw no advantage in “keeping this issue on the agenda”. Variants of the new initial coronavirus now account for about 75% of cases in Turkey, he said.
The minister also indicated that Turkey received 2.8 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and is preparing to receive 1.7 million new doses in the next ten days.
Turkey started its vaccination program in January with the vaccine produced by the Chinese company Sinovac. To date, more than 15 million doses have been administered and about 6.7 million have received both doses. On Monday, the country announced about 32,400 infections.
The total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak in 2020 amounts to more than 3.3 million, with a total of at least 31,000 dead.
The covid-19 pandemic caused at least 2,792,586 deaths worldwide, resulting from more than 127 million cases of infection, according to a report made by the French agency AFP.
In Portugal, 16,845 people died from 821,104 confirmed cases of infection, according to the most recent bulletin from the Directorate-General for Health.
The disease is transmitted by a new coronavirus detected in late 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China.