Turkey reimposes restrictions after sharp rise in infections

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A woman wearing a mask to help protect against the spread of coronavirus, walk in the rain in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, March 29, 2021. Turkey is reinstating weekend lockdowns in most of Turkey's provinces and will also impose restrictions over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan following a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

ANKARA – Turkey is re-introducing weekend lockdowns in most of its provinces and will also impose restrictions over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan following a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases.

Infections in Turkey have soared less than a month after authorities divided the 81 provinces into four color-coded categories and relaxed restrictions in some provinces under a “controlled normalization” effort.

The number of infections hit a record on Tuesday, with the Health Ministry confirming 37,303 new cases in the past 24 hours. The country of nearly 84 million also reported 155 deaths on Tuesday, up from around 65 at the start of the month.

In a televised address following a Cabinet meeting late Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 58 out of Turkey’s 81 provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara, were now designated as “red” or “very high-risk” areas and would be subjected to lockdowns on both Saturdays and Sundays.

Nighttime curfews that are in place across the country would continue, he said.

Only 17 provinces were in the “red” category on March 2, when schools partially resumed face-to-face education, cafes and restaurants were allowed to operate at half-capacity and weekend curfews were eased in several cities.

“The increase in the number of cases and patients as well as the increase in the number of deaths, is forcing us to review the existing measures,” Erdogan said in an address to the nation. “The number of our provinces which are in the red category, which constitutes the very high-risk category, has reached 58 — representing 80% of the population.”

“We will have to make some sacrifices during the month of Ramadan,” he said, adding that restaurants and cafes would be allowed to serve takeout food only during the holy month, which starts on April 13 in Turkey.