Turkey relaxes Covid restrictions further, new cases still in 1K range

Turkey on Thursday further eased coronavirus restrictions as President Erdogan and Health Minister Mr Fahrettin Koca heralded the advances in the war against the pandemic. That is certainly true, but doesn’t mean the country will evade the dreaded second wave.  Daily cases still range  around 1K, while new case/tests ratio has only fallen to 3% from 4.5% in the preceding 7 days.

As of June 1, civil servants on administrative leave or working remotely will return to their workplaces, the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said following a Cabinet meeting held via video conferencing.

Referring to the travel ban in 15 major cities, he said intercity travel ban in Turkey will be lifted as of next month.

Earlier in April, Turkey imposed the country’s first travel ban across 31 provinces to stem the spread of the virus and later lifted it partially.

He went on to say excluding places of entertainment, enterprises such as restaurants, patisseries, cafes, tea gardens, swimming pools, and hot springs will also reopen.

Also, the motorway service area will begin to serve on June 1, he said.

Moreover, beaches, parks, gardens, driving courses, restaurants, archaeological sites, libraries, youth centers and camps, and museums in Turkey will reopen on the same day.

Daycare centers and kindergartens will also reopen starting June, he said.

Meanwhile, restrictions on individual sports have ended, while restrictions on sea tourism, fishing, and transportation were also lifted within the determined rules, Erdogan added.

Additionally, Turkey lifted curfew on children under age 18 on Wednesdays and Fridays between 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., he added.

The curfew will continue for people over age 65 except Sundays between 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., he said.

He added that during the lockdown the government’s Vefa social support groups reached out to over 6.2 million people by providing them essential services at home.

Turkey, so far, has evacuated 75,000 citizens from 126 different countries amid the coronavirus lockdown, he said.

“Turkey responded to calls for help from 100 out of 135 countries that asked for help against COVID-19,” he said.

The pandemic has claimed more than 357,700 lives in 188 countries and regions since originating in China last December. The US and Europe are currently the world’s worst-hit regions.

Nearly 5.93 million cases have been reported worldwide. Nearly 2.39 million people have recovered so far, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

On Thursday, Turkey confirmed 160,979 cases, while recoveries surpassed 124,000. The virus has killed nearly 4,500 people so far, according to the Health Ministry data.  On Thursday, 1,182 new cases were diagnosed, with 30 deaths, as 33.5K tests were administered.

The number of new cases is still too high for comfort, given the fact that in at least two   mid-size cities, namely Van Province in North-East and Gaziantep at the Syrian border had to re-introduce local quarantines, because travelers from other cities bought the virus with them. Elazıg, another Interior Anatolian city, reported its first case after 20 days of none, as—again—a travel coming home infected 20 visitors. 

The biggest problem in assessing Turkey’s success against Covid-19 is the absence of mass or random testing, which would have revealed the prevalence of the virus and asymptomatic cases in the population. In the absence of such testing, increased social mobility and custos, such as kissing relatives and friends on both cheeks as a greeting and very narrow privacy bubbles are likely to cause an increase in cases over summer months.

Turkey may not be ready for the psychological and economic devastation of a second wave. Erdogan intends to gear up the economy to high growth as soon as possible to regain the hearts of voters, which according some polls have deserted AKP during the outbreak.

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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and www.paraanaliz.com and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.