Turkey will start easing coronavirus containment measures from Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, lifting inter-city travel restrictions in seven provinces and easing a curfew imposed on seniors and young people, Reuters reported.
Turkey has about 130,000 confirmed coronavirus cases — the highest total outside Western Europe, the United States and Russia — and has been in lockdown on weekends and national holidays since the start of April.
Ankara started implementing containment measures after its first coronavirus case was reported in early March. It has imposed travel restrictions in 31 major cities and also shut schools, restaurants, bars and shops.
However, Erdoğan said on Monday that Turkey will start easing measures gradually in May, June and July after the spread of the virus slowed over the past two weeks.
The number of coronavirus fatalities in Turkey has risen by 65 to 3,461 in the past 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed on Monday, with the number of cases rising by 1,614 to 127,659.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdoğan said that seniors and young people will be allowed outside for four hours one day a week from next weekend and that travel restrictions would be lifted for seven cities, excluding İstanbul, İzmir and the capital city of Ankara.
The restrictions will be lifted for Erzurum, Aydın, Hatay, Malatya, Mersin, Antalya and Muğla but will remain in place for 24 other cities, Erdoğan said.
Shopping malls, barber shops and some stores will be allowed to open on May 11 provided they abide by so-called normalization rules, adding that universities would return to their academic calendar on June 15.
“We will implement this normalization plan flexibly. Some dates may be brought forward or pushed back depending on developments,” Erdoğan said in a national address.
“We will, as all 83 million people, determine when and how we will return to our lives. If measures are not followed and the outbreak spreads once again, we will have to take much harsher measures.”
After recording one of the fastest growth rates for COVID-19 infections in the world, Turkey said the outbreak hit a plateau about six weeks after the first case was confirmed on March 11.