Turkey to gradually ease COVID-19 restrictions from March
Turkey will gradually begin easing COVID-19 restrictions, including curfews and weekend lockdowns, starting March, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, adding that a road map for restaurants and cafes will also be unveiled in the coming days.
The government imposed weeknight curfews and full lockdowns on weekends as well as other curbs in December 2020 in the wake of a spike in virus cases.
“We are starting the gradual normalization process as of the beginning of March by dividing our provinces into four categories in line with criteria established by our Health Ministry,” Erdoğan announced on Feb. 18, following a cabinet meeting in Ankara.
He said that provinces will be categorized as low, medium, high and very high-risk based on infection and vaccination rates.
“We are gradually lifting curfews starting with weekend lockdowns, based on infection, vaccination and other criteria in provinces,” Erdoğan said, adding that a decision regarding resuming face-to-face education will be made depending on the infection cases and the vaccinations in provinces.
The president noted that Turkey has made the necessary contacts for [acquiring more] vaccines that “we will need in the first place.”
Erdoğan said he believed March would be a month in which Turkey makes great advancements in terms of vaccination, but urged the public to continue adhering to the virus measures.
“The crucial point is to make sure that the number of cases keeps declining in all provinces. Turkey is handling this global crisis very successfully.”
The government will announce in the coming days the steps to be taken to provide relief to restaurants and cafes, which were forced to close due to the pandemic, he also said.
If the situation in a province poses risks, then restrictions could be tightened, said Afşin Emre Kayıpmaz from the Health Ministry’s Science Board, commenting on the normalization phase Erdoğan unveiled.
He added that movements from and to a province or a district may be restricted in order to keep those settlements “clean,” and a measure will be taken on a province-based assessment.
Kayıpmaz stressed that in the normalization phase, restaurants may not provide services as they used to do before.
Restaurants will accept customers with a valid HES code, provided through an application which tracks the contraction of the COVID-19 virus, according to Kayıpmaz.
Restaurants and cafes will operate at 25 percent capacity and customers will be allowed to stay at those venues for a limited time period, he said, adding that restrictions for those businesses could be eased at the start of March.