Turkey extends weekend lockdown amid rise in virus cases

Turkey extends weekend lockdown amid rise in virus cases

Turkey extends weekend lockdown amid rise in virus cases

Turkey has extended an upcoming weekend lockdown to include the April 23 national holiday to curb the spread of the coronavirus as the daily infections and deaths from COVID-19 have been hovering at record levels.

The nationwide lockdown will be in effect from 7 p.m. on April 22 until 5 a.m. on April 26, the country’s Interior Ministry said in a circular.

No large gatherings will be held to mark the National Sovereignty and Children’s Day holiday, except for an official wreath-laying ceremony.

Instead, some celebrations and events will be held online.

During the extended weekend lockdown, essential businesses such as grocery stores, bakeries, butchers and greengrocers will operate between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Amid the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, the government last week introduced a raft of measures for two weeks during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, including extended weeknight curfews and nationwide weekend lockdown.

‘Grappling with unprecedented wave’

The number of daily coronavirus cases in Turkey has been hovering at near or above 60,000 since last week with fatalities due to the outbreak increasing by the day.

The positivity rate in COVID-19 tests rose to 19.44 percent on April 21 from 6.47 percent on Feb. 21, said Prof. Dr. Sema Kultufan Turan from the Health Ministry’s Science Board.

“There are number of reasons behind this, but the main cause is the virus variants, which have spread among the public. People’s mobility has also increased during this period and this was another reason,” she said.

The latest wave in the outbreak is not like anything the country had experienced before, Professor İsmail Cinel, the head of the Turkish Society of Intensive Care (TYBD), told daily Milliyet.

“This wave is totally unprecedented,” he said, noting that the U.K strain of the virus accounts for 90 percent of all cases and that Istanbul has become “the breeding ground” for the virus.

Cinel offered a grim outlook that the daily deaths from the virus may hit 400 next week.

Hospitals’ intensive care units are not able to cope with the current caseload and health care workers are one the verge burnout, he said.

It sometimes may take up to 30 days for patients treated in the intensive care units to recover and this prevents hospitals from admitting new patients, according to Cinel.

COVID-19 has infected nearly 4.5 million and killed some 37,000 people in Turkey, data from the Health Ministry show.

The occupancy rate at hospitals’ intensive care units is a little more than 69 percent.