Some provinces in Turkey preparing for lockdown-free weekend
People in some of 81 provinces of Turkey will experience their first lockdown-free weekend for the first time in months after the government has recently rolled out a plan for normalization.
The provinces are classified as low, medium, high and very high-risk provinces based on several criteria, such as the rates of infections and vaccinations, and the restrictions will be eased accordingly.
Full weekend lockdowns, which were initially introduced in December 2020 after the number of virus cases spiked, are lifted in low and medium-risk provinces, but weeknight curfews remain in place in all provinces.
Weekend curfews in the high and very-high risk provinces are lifted only for Saturdays but millions of people there will have to still spend Sundays at their homes.
A map Health Minister Fahrettin Koca provided earlier this week shows that 42 provinces are categorized as low- and medium-risk provinces.
The residents of Ankara will enjoy the lockdown-free weekend as the capital is classified as a low-risk province. However, people in Istanbul, the biggest city in Turkey, and the western province of izmir, the third largest by population, are allowed to venture outside only on Saturday as those provinces fall under the high-risk category.
As the country moved to the “controlled normalization” phase, authorities simultaneously launched the dynamic supervision model, under which officials tighten inspections in the field to ensure that people and businesses are adhering to the anti-virus rules.
Under the normalization plan, restaurant and cafes can now receive customers between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at 50 percent capacity in low, medium and high-risk provinces while they will remain closed in very high-risk cities. Those businesses will receive customers with a valid coronavirus contact tracing HES code.
Business owners welcome the government’s decision for the reopening of restaurants and cafes, but they said the problems accumulated in the eatery sector over the months are overwhelming.
The reopening will definitely help those businesses and people have started to come to restaurants and cafes as they miss socializing, Hakan Kıran, a restaurant owner in Istanbul, told daily Hürriyet.
“The picture is, however, not so rosy for the sector, particularly for the restaurants which serve alcohol. Before the pandemic, people would come to such restaurants at 7 p.m. at the earliest but now we have to close at seven,” Kıran said.
He stressed that running such a business is costly, involving rent, tax and other expenses.
“We had remained closed for nearly a year and the debt has accumulated. Government support for those businesses is a must,” Kıran added.
Fine-dining restaurants are also having problems because of the shorter business hours.
Serkan Koca, the owner of a such business in Istanbul, said that they are taking all precautions advised by authorities.
“Teams, including the police, are inspecting all venues during the day, which gives some kind of confidence to customers. Yes, people started dining out, but we are serving customers at one or two tables. It is not like the old days,” Koca added.
He said that restaurants should serve until at least 10 p.m.
“That is really necessary for us to serve longer hours to pay the rent and repay the debts, otherwise it will be difficult to keep the business afloat,” Koca said.