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Turkish shops to close after Erdoğan promises economic support: report

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Turkish clothing retailers said on Thursday they were shutting stores and that shopping centers were set to close due to the spread of the coronavirus, after Ankara promised economic support and advised Turks to stay home for three weeks unless necessary, Reuters reported.

Turkey announced a second death and said cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness had nearly doubled to 191, as it ramps up steps to rein in the virus, closing cafes, banning community prayers in mosques and halting flights to 20 countries.

There are some 435 shopping malls in Turkey, which have annual turnover of $160 billion and directly employ 530,000 people, according to the Turkish Council of Shopping Centers (AYD).

On Wednesday President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on people to minimize social contact until the virus threat recedes, but he did not tell them to stay away from work as he announced a TL 100 billion ($15.4 billion) economic support package.

Retailers including Mavi Giyim and Vakko Tekstil, listed on the İstanbul stock exchange, said they were closing their retail stores. Mavi shares dropped 4.7 percent, and Vakko fell 3.5 percent after the announcements.

“Our first and foremost priority is the health and safety of our employees and our consumers globally,” Mavi said as it announced the closure of stores in Turkey, Germany and Canada, adding that its online stores would remain open.

After the latest steps, the lira was nearly 0.5 percent weaker against the dollar, hitting its weakest level since September 2018 and bringing its losses this year to some 9 percent.

The AYD said its board recommended malls shut in line with Erdogan’s comments and was awaiting instructions from authorities. “None of our employees will lose their jobs, and [the situation of] our tenants will be eased as necessary,” it said.

Luxury goods chain Vakko said it was temporarily halting production as well as shutting stores. Other retailers that announced store closures included Boyner, Ipekyol and Marks & Spencer stores in Turkey, operated by Fiba Retail.

After meeting with ministers and business leaders, Erdoğan said on Wednesday Turkey would postpone debt payments and reduce the tax burden on some sectors in a package of measures to support the economy but called on people to limit their movements.

“None of our citizens must leave their homes or get into contact with anyone, unless absolutely necessary, until the threat disappears,” Erdoğan said.

Among specific measures, Erdoğan said Turkey’s tourism accommodation tax was being suspended until November to support the key tourism sector, which accounts for some 12 percent of the economy. Debt repayments of companies affected by the coronavirus will be postponed for a minimum of three months.

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