US President Joe Biden angers Turkey by recognising the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 as a ‘genocide’.
Turks will be required to stay mostly at home under a nationwide “full lockdown” starting on Thursday and lasting until May 17 to curb a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced.
Turkey logged 37,312 new COVID-19 infections and 353 deaths in the previous 24 hours on Monday, health ministry data showed, sharply down from mid-April but still the world’s fourth highest number of cases.
Announcing the new measures on Monday after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan said all intercity travel would require official approval, all schools would shut and move lessons online, and a strict capacity limit would be imposed for users of public transport.
Turks will have to stay indoors except for essential shopping trips and urgent medical treatment. Certain groups including emergency service workers and employees in the food and manufacturing sectors will be exempt.
The new restrictions take effect from 16:00 GMT (7pm local time) on Thursday and will end at 02:00 GMT on May 17.
“At a time when Europe is entering a phase of reopening, we need to rapidly cut our case numbers to below 5,000 not to be left behind. Otherwise, we will inevitably face heavy costs in every area, from tourism to trade and education,” Erdogan said.
The measures appear to be designed to avoid another spike around the time of traditional family gatherings and celebrations that take place when the holy month of Ramadan ends in mid-May.
The new restrictions come with Turkey falling considerably behind its planned inoculation schedule after a quick start in mid-January.
It has provided two jabs to eight million people and is pushing China to speed up the delivery of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine after securing a deal for 100 million doses.
Turkey has also received its first deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and has reached a deal with Russia to start producing Sputnik V locally.