Turkey bans smoking in crowded public places to contain pandemic

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Turkey’s Interior Ministry on Wednesday banned smoking in crowded public places as part of efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control as coronavirus infections have surged in the country.

The Turkish government does not reveal the exact number of people infected with the coronavirus every day. The Health Ministry instead announces the number of “patients” who are being treated in hospitals for COVID-19, while people who have been infected with the virus but not hospitalized are excluded from the numbers, a decision which the critics have said hides the true scale of the outbreak in the country.

Turkey identified 2,693 coronavirus patients on Wednesday.

In a nationwide notice, the Interior Ministry said the smoking ban aims to ensure people comply with rules to wear protective masks in public because people lower them while smoking.

“For this reason, in order to ensure that masks are worn at all times and properly, as of November 12, 2020, a smoking ban will be imposed in areas such as streets where people congregate or can be crowded together, public squares when deemed necessary and public transportation stops,” the ministry said.

Earlier, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca urged citizens to comply fully with mask wearing and social distancing rules. “I am only asking you to do what you can. Nothing more,” Koca wrote on Twitter.

Since last week, the Turkish government has been taking some measures to contain the pandemic; however, the measures have been criticized for being far from effective to contain the surge in the number of coronavirus infections.

As part of the new measures, a partial lockdown of senior citizens was imposed earlier this week in some provinces, including the capital Ankara and its largest city İstanbul, banning people over 65 from being outside other than between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also announced last week that all business, including restaurants, cafes, pools and cinemas, would close at 10 p.m. daily as part of measures against the pandemic.

More than 400,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Turkey and 11,145 have died from the respiratory disease, according to Health Ministry data.

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