Turkey’s COVID curfew fails to contain surging second wave


Istanbul (Reuters) – Coronavirus deaths in Turkey rose to a record for the seventh consecutive day on Sunday and the number of new cases remained high despite efforts by President Tayyip Erdogan’s government to contain a second wave of infections.

Turkey is expected to report this week that its economy bounced back from a sharp coronavirus-induced slump earlier this year. But that recovery, key to Erdogan’s sustained political support, could be threatened by the new outbreak.

The government introduced tighter measures a week ago including nightly curfews at weekends, restrictions on movements of people of non-working age, a move to online schooling and limiting restaurants and cafes to takeaway services.

However the moves have done little to halt a remorseless rise in cases and fatalities, with Sunday’s toll of 185 dead 45% above the peak of the first wave in April, and the number of new cases behind only the United States, India and Brazil – all countries with far larger populations than Turkey.

More than 29,000 cases were reported in the last 24 hours. Saturday’s figure of 30,103 was the highest recorded, but authorities have only been including asymptomatic cases – as most other countries have regularly done – since Wednesday.

Doctors and opposition politicians have called for stricter measures, but with shops, restaurants and hotels already hit by the new clampdown, the government is anxious to avoid further economic pain and said people had a personal duty to cooperate.

“Our health army is under a heavy burden,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter. “Each of us is responsible for following the measures.”

Speaking after midday prayers on Friday, Erdogan attributed the resurgent pandemic to people flouting regulations.

“Masks and (social) distance are very important, hygiene is very important. As long as these are not heeded, especially in big cities, the increasing continuation of (the virus) becomes inevitable,” he told reporters.

Opponents say the government needs to take tougher action.

“The lives lost are our lives. But we see that the government is still trying to manage the situation with band-aid measures,” Meral Aksener, leader of the opposition IYI Party, said in parliament last week.

“I am calling out to Mr Erdogan from here once again – come, impose a quarantine of at least 14 days.”

Celallettin Koruturk, a specialist chest surgeon at an Istanbul hospital, echoed the call for stricter measures, saying that if the steps taken last weekend were going to be effective, they would have made a difference by now.

“Based on current data, we look to be at the top of the worldwide list of cases per population,” he told Reuters. “We need to act very dynamically without waiting further.”

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