Turkey weighing gradual reopening after lockdown
Turkish officials are weighing road maps in a bid to gradually reopen Turkey if the number of virus cases drops to targeted levels after the 17-day full nationwide lockdown that will end on May 17.
Authorities are keeping a close eye on the impact of the lockdown that began on April 29 to decide what steps should be taken next.
According to the gradual reopening plans under consideration, schools will open first, while small businesses, such as barbershops, salons and lawyers’ offices, will resume operations in the second stage of the reopening process.
In the third stage, restaurants and cafes will open but under strict rules, including limited capacity and serving customers outdoor.
If the vaccination drive gains momentum and at the same time the daily cases decline to desired levels, Turkey can move toward gradual reopening, officials said, adding that weeknight curfews and weekend lockdowns might still remain in place
According to officials, the target is to bring the number of cases from the current 400 cases per 100,000 people to 100 after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which will take place between May 13 and May 15.
“We need to bring the number of daily cases below 10,000,” they added.
Professor Mehmet Ceyhan, an expert in infectious diseases at Hacettepe University in Ankara, warned about risks from people returning from resort towns or hometowns to big cities after the lockdown.
“If all restrictions are lifted immediately, and people return to cities in an uncontrolled manner, the virus cases may surge in mid-June,” Ceyhan said.
He also proposed a gradual reopening which will span through a period of six to eight weeks.
COVID-19 is now widespread among young people and children, Ceyhan stressed, noting that Turkey might not witness a fourth wave of the outbreak if some 70 percent to 75 percent of the population received their vaccinations.
“Turkey needs to make necessary arrangements to inoculate people aged below 18, which constitute 20 percent of the population,” he added.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on May 3 reiterated that the target in the jab drive was to vaccinate people aged over 40 by the end of June.
“We also want to vaccinate our citizens over 18 years of age and our young people during the summer,” the minister said.
Turkey has signed deals with different suppliers for COVID-19 vaccines, Koca noted.
“We are talking about 240 million vaccines in total where 100 million of them are [Chinese] Sinovac. With a number of positive developments in the coming days, we estimate that [these vaccine] shipments can start again this month,” the minister said.
Apart from this, 50 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will be delivered in over six months and there is also an agreement for a total of 90 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech injection, according to Koca.
To date, Turkey has administered more than 23.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Over 14.1 million people have received the first dose while nearly 9.6 million have been given both doses of the vaccines.