As Turkey eases into a new life since the lifting of restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities remain concerned with only a slight decrease in new cases. The upcoming Muslim holiday of Qurban Bayram, also known as Eid al-Adha, an occasion of higher mobility for millions, may trigger new cases. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has ruled out a new curfew like the one imposed during Ramadan Bayram, or Eid al-Fitr, another Muslim holiday observed at the height of pandemic, but warns there might be restrictions.
Speaking after a meeting of the ministry’s Coronavirus Science Board on Wednesday evening, Koca said they have been discussing possible measures. “A curfew has not been on the agenda, but certain measures on a provincial basis are being considered.” Depending on the fluctuations of the cases, the provinces will decide on the implementation of the said measures.
The holiday, where every Muslim who can afford is obliged to sacrifice an animal, usually sees an exodus of people to their hometowns to visit their relatives or for vacation resorts in the Mediterranean and Aegean region. Marketplaces for sacrificial animals are also set up in cities and attract a large number of customers. Marketplaces were already opened under strict measures for social distancing.
Turkey’s daily COVID-19 death toll remains at 22 with 1,041 new cases, Koca said Wednesday. The total number of infections nationwide reached 208,938.
The total number of recoveries in the country amounts to 187,511. In the past 24 hours, 2,219 COVID-19 patients recovered from the virus, according to Health Ministry data released Wednesday evening.
The minister said that masks are an internationally accepted measure against the spread of the virus. He stressed that the mask alone is insufficient in close quarters – social distancing and hand-washing are indispensable rules. Countries that are experiencing a rise in cases have either already abandoned these measures or took inadequate action to begin with, he said.
“We know that compliance with the measure is not easy and 100% compliance cannot be achieved,” Koca said, stressing that vacationers should be aware that these measures apply to them as well.
He revealed that weddings were the main reason for the rise in new cases. Send-off parties for mandatory military service were recently banned in eight provinces as they were not complying with the measures. Now only close family members are allowed to be there for the send-offs.
The health minister said Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, has reached its peak in virus cases along with the provinces of Izmir, Kocaeli, Sakarya and Eskişehir. “Anatolia is still experiencing the first wave,” he said.