Outdoor mask mandate scrapped, some other anti-virus rules eased

Outdoor mask mandate scrapped, some other anti-virus rules eased

Outdoor mask mandate scrapped, some other anti-virus rules eased

Turkey has scrapped the face mask mandate and eased some anti-virus measures as the decline in the number of daily COVID-19 cases continues.

However, people will still need to wear protective face masks while on planes, in buses, theaters and cinemas, as well as health facilities and inside schools, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Feb. 2, following a meeting of the Health Ministry’s Science Board, which advises the government on the pandemic.

Under the new rules Koca announced, people will not be required to wear face masks in indoor places if there is sufficient ventilation in those venues, but they should maintain social distancing.

“This should be the main principle: We are not completely removing the masks from our lives. We will still be carrying them to wear when necessary. We need to move from the phase where the entire society fights against the disease by introducing restrictions to a phase where people should act individually to protect themselves,” the minister said in the press conference.

The number of daily infections, which hit above 100,000 in early February, has dropped below 80,000 since Feb. 24 and further declined to currently standling below 60,000.

A previous measure that classrooms should be closed if two students test positive for the virus was also lifted. The student who has tested positive will stay in isolation, but education in this classroom will continue.

Also, people will no longer have to provide a HES code, a coronavirus contact tracing system, when entering public buildings, and those who do not show any symptoms will not be tested for COVID-19 anymore.

Those decisions were not taken in full agreement, Koca said, noting that some experts believe it was too early, while others suggested some more time was needed to take those actions.

“However, most experts supported our initiatives by taking into account the realities of social life and similar measures put in place in other countries,” the minister told reporters.

Koca reiterated that the pandemic has weakened. “This is a fact. There is no need to underline the word pandemic as we did before,” he said.

The minister also said that no decision was taken regarding giving people a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

“If the fourth dose is considered necessary, it may be given to people at risk, those that are immunosuppressed.”