Turkey will enter a “complete lockdown” for more than two weeks, shutting scores of businesses, prohibiting travel and requiring residents to stay at home as the country grapples with soaring Covid-19 cases and deaths, the president said.
Turkey has been tightening social-distancing measures in recent weeks as the daily increase in coronavirus cases peaked above 62,000 and deaths in a single day topped 360. The latest figures, released on Monday, showed 37,312 people diagnosed with Covid-19 and 353 deaths.
The government is seeking to bring cases below 5,000 to protect the $717bn economy, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said late on Monday. The measures will be the most stringent in Turkey after more than a year of the pandemic.
“At a time when Europe is in the process of opening up, we must rapidly reduce our number of cases to fewer than 5,000 so as not to be left behind,” Erdogan said. “Otherwise, it will be inevitable that we will pay a heavy price in every field, from tourism to trade and education.”
People will be under a round-the-clock curfew from April 30 until May 17, except for grocery shopping, and travel between cities will be forbidden without special permission, Erdogan said. The handful of school grades that had in-person instruction will return to online education only. Most Turkish students have been out of the classroom for 13 months.
Exemptions from the curfew will be made for supermarkets, farms, factories and supply chains.
Erdogan did not outline any state financial aid for closed businesses or furloughed workers. He had argued Turkey could not “afford” to slow economic activity too sharply as it struggled with double-digit inflation, soaring unemployment and a slump in foreign investment.
The lockdown coincides with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and the government will ban alcohol sales throughout the period, news reports said. Some Turks on social media accused the conservative government, which has its roots in political Islam, of using the pandemic as “an excuse” to proscribe drinking.
“I am sorry to say that the sale of alcohol is prohibited through May 17, with the excuses of the pandemic and Ramadan,” Ozgur Aybas, chairman of an off-licence business association, said in a tweet. “This is a clear blow to privacy and our culture of eating and drinking.”