Turkey marks first curfew-free weekend since mid- April
People swarmed streets, parks, shopping centers and cafes to enjoy the first curfew-free weekend since being locked inside their houses mid-April after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 5 canceled an initially planned lockdown for 15 provinces, saying that it could have led “to social and economic consequences.”
Despite warnings from the authorities, people, who ventured outside, appeared to ignore social distancing rules, prompting Health Minister Fahrettin Koca to take to Twitter to remind the public the urgency of hygiene rules.
“Let’s not overdo the normalization,” Koca tweeted.
Turkey rolled out its normalization program on June 1, further relaxing the measures imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Restaurants, cafes, parks, beaches and gyms reopened, but schools remained closed.
“Citizens started celebrations over the news that the last [COVID-19] case was reported and there is no risk anymore,” Koca wrote sarcastically, commenting on a video attached to his tweet showing a large group of people dancing in a park in Istanbul’s Moda neighborhood.
“There is a long way to go to really hear this [good] news. Let’s view face masks and social distancing as part of today’s fashion and adhere to those rules,” he added.
In the video, mostly young people were seen dancing and enjoying their time outside without face masks.
Not only in Istanbul, the country’s largest city, but also in other provinces people rushed to the beaches, parks, and picnic areas.
Istanbul, however, has been under the spotlight amid the pandemic, because it is considered to be the epicenter of the outbreak in the country.
The residents of the city with a population of some 16 million took a stroll along the shoreline and took ferries to visit the popular Princess’ Islands, which was placed under a travel ban between April 26 and June 1.
“This weekend offered us a deep breather. I am going to swim to freshen up. We were bored staying at home at weekends. It has been 78 days that we were stuck inside our homes. I really missed this place,” said Zihni Ceyhan, who spent his day on the shoreline in Istanbul’s Bebek neighborhood by the Bosphorus.
Another resident said he went outside to catch some sun. “We are trying to collect some vitamin D,” he added.
People also rushed to the beaches in the city’s Büyükçekmece and Şile districts while cars formed huge lines at the entrance of the popular Belgrad Forests, north of the city.
Erdoğan said on June 5 that following reactions from the public, the curfew decision was reviewed, and he decided to scrap the lockdown.
Meanwhile, Professor Tevfik Özlü from the Science Board noted that the number of daily confirmed virus cases has been fluctuating between 800 to 1,500.
“The daily changes are not enough to make a healthy assessment. We need to see what happens in June. The picture will become clearer within 10 days,” Özlü said.