Turkey's Interior Ministry imposed Friday a two-day curfew in 30 metropolitan provinces and northern Zonguldak province starting as of midnight to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The curfew covers the provinces of Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Aydın, Balıkesir, Bursa, Denizli, Diyarbakır, Erzurum, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Hatay, İstanbul, İzmir, Kahramanmaraş, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Malatya, Manisa, Mardin, Mersin, Muğla, Ordu, Sakarya, Samsun, Şanlıurfa, Tekirdağ, Trabzon and Van. Aforementioned provinces were already placed under quarantine-like measures last week on April 3, with travel heavily restricted and subjected to approval, except for movement of goods and public personnel on official duty.
The latest move comes as the country's health minister reported 4,747 new COVID-19 cases earlier in the day, with total number of cases reaching 47,029, including 1,006 deaths since the outbreak began. Warm and sunny weather forecast for almost two-thirds of the country, mainly western and central provinces, raised fears that people could ignore calls for social isolation.
The curfew means some 64 million people, or 78% of the entire population, will spend the weekend in their homes. Bakeries, all healthcare product manufacturers, public and private hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes and shelters, emergency call centers, designated gas stations and veterinary clinics (one for each 50,000 population), energy companies, postal and cargo delivery companies and animal shelters will remain operational.
Employees of relevant businesses and public servants charged with security are exempt from the curfew, in addition to people with funerals of first degree relatives and scheduled blood and blood plasma donations with the Turkish Red Crescent. Those who do not comply with the curfew will be fined or detained.
However, as the curfew was made public, images and footage from all provinces showed many people queuing in front of bakeries, ATMs and open shops, often ignoring social distancing rules.
In a video conference call with police chiefs of 81 provinces, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said that the ministry regards this weekend as a critical threshold in the fight against coronavirus. "All our personnel should pressure everyone outside within the limits of courtesy. Please warn everyone in a way that you see strolling around, sitting on a bench or outside in their cars. (Our personnel) should ask why they are outside and try to direct them home," Soylu reportedly said.
Following the news that people rushed to markets for food stocking, Soylu called for calm and urged against panic buying, reminding that the curfew will end on Sunday midnight.
Turkey has so far avoided a total lockdown but has ordered anyone above the age of 65 or below the age of 20 to remain home. Although schools and businesses such as cafes and hairdressers were shut down, many businesses and offices remain open and workers continue to go to work.
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