Istanbul preparing to ease virus restrictions

Istanbul preparing to ease virus restrictions

Istanbul preparing to ease virus restrictions

Istanbul is ready to ease COVID-19-related restrictions starting on March1 and making preparations to that end in line with the government’s plans to move to a normalization phase on a provincial-basis, the city’s provincial health director has said.

“In terms of the pandemic outlook [in Istanbul], we are at a very good point as the number of virus patients has declined and intensive care units in hospitals are not as busy as before. Presently, Istanbul is ready for easing measures as of March 1, as our President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] suggested,” Professor Prof. Dr. Kemal Memişoğlu said.

The virus cases in the city, Turkey’s largest with a population of 16 million, have been minimized, Memişoğlu said, adding that the residents should continue to comply with the rules to keep the infection at low levels.

Last week, Erdoğan announced a plan to a gradual return to normal life on a province-based approach starting in March.

Under the normalization scheme, provinces will be categorized as low, medium, high, and very high-risk based on infection and vaccination rates.

“We are gradually lifting curfews starting with weekend lockdowns, based on infection, vaccination and other criteria in provinces,” Erdoğan explained after a cabinet meeting.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca also set the date to start the gradual normalization phase to March 1.

“We are working carefully on the normalization steps. The process will start with provincial public health councils dealing with four risk levels in line with Health Ministry criteria,” Koca wrote on Twitter on Feb. 20.

Koca earlier said that restrictions would be either eased or tightened depending on how provinces are categorized. Provinces will be assigned a color on a map indicating the risk level from blue (low risk) to red (very high-risk), he explained. Provinces with medium and high risk will be designated yellow and orange colors.

Provinces with 10 cases per 100,000 people will fall into the low-risk category while provinces with 11 to 35 cases will be classified as medium-risk. Those with 36 to 100 infections per 100,000 people will be categorized as high-risk and provinces with more than 100 cases will be marked as very high-risk.