Government weighing stricter measures during Ramadan
Turkey’s government is weighing options, including a shutdown, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in the face of a surge in daily coronavirus cases that have recently climbed to record highs.
Officials are discussing possible measures to be taken during Ramadan, which is set to begin on April 13, and the government is more inclined towards the idea of imposing a shutdown rather than introducing a full lockdown across the country to bring the outbreak under control.
Experts point that there is a difference between a shutdown and lockdown as the latter includes halting all production and distribution operations across the country which Turkey has never embarked to date.
A possible shutdown during Ramadan will bring along certain measures such as the closure of restaurants and cafes and probably hair salons and gyms as well as the restrictions on the mobility of people aged 65 and 20. Turkey already introduced such restrictions towards the end of 2020 when COVID-19 picked up.
The government is expected to make a final decision on Ramadan measures this week.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan already announced that there would be nationwide weekend lockdowns and restaurants would only be allowed to provide takeaway services during Ramadan.
Turkey has recently reintroduced weekend lockdowns, which lasts from 9 p.m. on Fridays to 5 a.m. on Mondays for very-high-risk provinces.
This weekend millions of people were supposed to stay at home in 58 provinces, including Istanbul, which are categorized as very-high-risk cities.
However, people continued to breach the rules to venture out, particularly in Istanbul over the weekend. Foreign tourists are exempt from the lockdown. Some locals said they went out to enjoy the sun and good weather while other violators provided excuses such as shopping for Ramadan.
There were even people traveling to Istanbul from their hometowns from where they brought along food to consume during Ramadan.
The number of cases in Istanbul has increased nearly tenfold compared with the start of March and the city now accounts for 40 percent of all COVID-19 cases recorded in the country, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.
“The situation in Istanbul determines the [outbreak] situation in the country. If we can protect Istanbul, then we can protect the country,” Koca wrote on Twitters on April 9.
He also noted that 85 percent of the cases recorded are the variants of COVID-19, calling the vaccination the “biggest weapon” against the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, experts are warning that PCR tests are failing to detect the virus strains, which could be one of the reasons behind the surge in the cases.
“We are increasingly seeing false negative test results even though the person shows all the symptoms of COVID-19. The first, second and even a third test run on those people return negative,” said Professor İsmail Balık from Ankara University’s Medical School.