ISTANBUL – Turkey introduced a new coronavirus lockdown over the weekend that took many by surprise and led to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu offering his resignation late Sunday.
The 48-hour curfew across 31 cities marked a major development in Turkey, which had previously adopted a more relaxed approach to fighting the virus than its neighbors in Europe and the Mideast.
Soylu took responsibility for the poorly timed announcement of the weekend curfew that prompted thousands of people to rush into the streets. He is one of the most senior figures in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Soylu said: “Responsibility for implementing the weekend curfew decision, which was aimed at preventing the epidemic, belongs entirely to me.”
However, the Communications Ministry later issued a statement saying Soylu’s resignation had not been accepted and he would continue to serve.
The lockdowns were announced just two hours before taking effect on Friday night. Thousands of people ran out to stores to stock up on goods, many without wearing mandatory face masks.
Images of large, closely-bunched crowds sparked criticism of the government’s planning for the lockdowns.
Soylu, who was appointed interior minister in August 2016, said his “countless experiences should not have led to such scenes.”