Turkey may start easing virus restrictions in March
Nuray Babacan- ANKARA
Turkey may start easing some COVID-19-related restrictions in the second half of March, as the daily number of infections dropped significantly over the past two months and the vaccination drive has been rolled out.
In the light of those encouraging developments, authorities are now mulling plans as to how to proceed with the virus measures down the road in the remainder of the year.
The duration of weeknight curfews could be shortened, on weekends only daytime curfews could be imposed and restaurants as well as cafes may reopen under certain conditions, authorities said.
Turkey has been implementing curfews and full lockdowns on weekends since early December 2020.
Weeknight curfews are in effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next morning while weekend lockdowns last from 9 p.m. on Fridays until 5 a.m. on Mondays.
Currently restaurants are only allowed to provide takeaway and delivery services.
As part of the plans under consideration, curfews may begin at 11 p.m. on weeknights and on weekends there could be nighttime curfews.
Under the revised rules, restaurants and cafes may be permitted to accept customers with a valid HES code, an application which tracks the contraction of the COVID-19 virus.
The arrival of the next batches of the coronavirus vaccines, the completion of the newly delivered jabs’ tests at local laboratories and expanding the scope of the vaccinations to cover wider groups of the public do not seem likely before the second half of February, officials said.
Thus, the impact of the vaccination drive will not be felt only until the second half of March, according to officials.
They also stressed that even though the vaccination is not mandatory in Turkey, there are no serious doubts and hesitation among the public regarding the inoculation program and the jab, hence the vaccination drive, which was launched last week starting with health care professionals, is expected to go smoothly.
They also pointed out that the locally developed COVID-19 injection could be made available for use starting from June.
If all goes as predicted, they said, some of the virus-related restrictions could be started to be eased in the second half of March.
Officials noted that the infections have already declined by up to 60 percent over the past two months, thanks to the measures and the country’s larger provinces have seen a significant improvement in the outbreak conditions due to herd immunity.
As part of the eased measures, hospitals may start to accept regular patients and delayed surgeries could be performed, they said, noting that schools may also switch back to in-class education in March.