Low, medium-risk provinces to be allowed to ease curbs first

Low, medium-risk provinces to be allowed to ease curbs first

Low, medium-risk provinces to be allowed to ease curbs first

Provinces in Turkey classified under low and medium risk groups will be the first ones to be allowed to start easing COVID-19-related restrictions as the country is preparing to return to normal life in March.

The country’s 81 provinces will be categorized as low, medium, high and very high risk based on infection rates and the vaccination process as well as other criteria.

Provinces with fewer than 10 virus cases per 100,000 people will be considered low-risk areas whereas provinces with between 11 to 35 infections per 100,000 people will fall under the medium-risk category.

“Low-risk provinces will start the reopening phase, but their residents will have to continue to adhere to the basic hygiene rules,” Prof. Dr. Sema Kultufan Turan from the Health Ministry’s Science Board told daily Hürriyet.

However, she said, what happens in the medium-risk provinces will be a “controlled reopening.”

“For instance, first small businesses will be allowed to resume operations there,” Turan explained.

According to the experts, for the time being returning to normal life seems unlikely in the high and very high-risk provinces.

If a province has between 36 to 100 reported virus cases per 100,000 people, it will be categorized as high risk while a province with more than 100 cases per 100,000 people will be tagged as a very high-risk province.

The capital Ankara presently has a higher chance of starting to ease restrictions, but Istanbul and İzmir, the country’s third-largest city by population, are not yet at this point, according to Turan.

Ankara is just at the border separating low-risk provinces from medium-risk provinces and it is close to taking steps regarding easing curfews and restaurant reopening under the controlled normalization ahead of Istanbul and İzmir, she said.

The Health Ministry has been revealing a map showing the case intensity in each province on a weekly basis.

According to the latest edition of the chart for Feb. 15 and Feb. 21, Ankara had 35.4 cases per 100,000 whereas Istanbul saw an increase to 68.2 cases from 60.2 in the week ending Feb. 14. In İzmir, the number of cases per 100,000 declined to 42.7 from 44.4.

Turan stressed that provinces with fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 people, such as the southeastern provinces of Hakkari and Şırnak will immediately move to the normalization phase on March 1.

In the Black Sea province of Ordu, which had 228 cases per 100,000 people, the highest in the country, local officials banned social activities, such as home visits.

“Those provinces will be strictly scrutinized, and following a 14-day monitoring period if the number of cases increase there, those provinces will have to tighten the measures again,” she said.

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