ANKARA (Reuters) – The daily number of coronavirus infections in Turkey has exceeded 50,000 and President Tayyip Erdogan is expected to order a tightening of restrictions this week ahead of vital tourist season, a senior government official said.
Turkey ranks fourth in the world for the number of new cases, which peaked at nearly 56,000 last week – a five-fold jump since early March, when Erdogan eased social brakes in what he called a period of “controlled normalization”.
Ankara blamed public laxity with the rules and virus variants for the outbreak, and on March 29 it announced weekend closings and closed restaurants for Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month that begins on Tuesday.
But the official told Reuters the short-lived normalization period has not gone well and the measures need to be tightened even further after a cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
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“There doesn’t seem to be any other solution but to take much tougher measures,” the person said. Erdogan’s cabinet will act on proposals made by a government scientific council that will meet on Monday evening, the official added, on condition of anonymity.
The official said the measures could include limiting intercity travel, which doctors say is key to transmission, restricting the movement of those under 20 and over 65, and closing sports facilities and Recreation.
Separate sources from the 38-member science council said some wanted a complete lockdown throughout Ramadan or, failing that, restrictions on movement between cities and cuts in the use of public transport in cities by adjusting the rates. working hours.
“The plan is to reduce the number of cases before the full start of the tourist season, as a daily number of cases above 50,000 will have a very negative impact on tourism,” the official said.
Last year, the pandemic slashed Turkey’s tourism revenues – a major source of foreign exchange for reducing its chronically high current account deficits – by two-thirds to $ 12 billion.
Based on Erdogan’s March 29 announcement, restaurants may be limited to delivery and take-out during Ramadan, while a national curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. will continue.
Since January, Turkey has administered 18.7 million vaccines. Some 11 million people received a first dose out of a population of 84 million.
Nurettin Yigit, chief medical officer at a specially constructed pandemic hospital in Istanbul, said the gunfire had helped lower the average age of hospital patients to less than 60, thereby reducing intensive care patients and deaths.
“We plan to have a large part of the country vaccinated by June. If we can move towards this goal, it looks like the last big wave,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Hugh Lawson)
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