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Packed AKP meeting draws ire as Turkey’s daily COVID-19 cases exceed 26K

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The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has sparked anger from people on social media for holding its 7th Ordinary Grand Congress in a jam-packed indoor sports arena located in Ankara in disregard of rules aimed at controlling the coronavirus pandemic as the country’s daily cases surpass 26,000.

The ruling AKP, whose nationwide support has dropped below 30 percent in the latest surveys, wanted to fill the sports arena for show by packing people in shoulder to shoulder, ignoring COVID-19 measures, local media reports said.

Twitter was abuzz with angry reactions to the large gathering as photos of buses carrying AKP supporters from various provinces to Ankara began to circulate on social media, revealing that large numbers of people were violating social distancing rules with most of them not even wearing masks.

“Don’t you have any mercy, a conscience? While our people are stricken with the virus and our healthcare workers heroically battle the outbreak, you continue holding jam-packed congresses. This is where words simply fail,” Vecdi Gündoğdu, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in a tweet, addressing the AKP government.

“Local COVID-19 variations from 81 provinces come together in Ankara. We will then redistribute them around the country. Good luck,” a Twitter user said with irony.

Sharing a photo of thousands of people arriving at the arena, a student asked: “What have the healthcare workers been struggling for? Why didn’t I go to school for a year? Why did many of Turkey’s small businessowners fail?”

Another user called on Health Minister Fahrettin Koca to resign, saying, “If you can’t say ‘stop’ to buses carrying thousands of people from around Turkey [to Ankara] for the AKP congress, it’s fitting that you resign tonight.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also drew criticism last month when he bragged about how packed the crowd was while giving a speech at an AKP meeting in Rize.

Data released by Minister Koca following AKP conventions in various provinces in the last months showed that the number of coronavirus cases in Turkey has increased significantly in provinces where the AKP held indoor rallies in defiance of the minister’s warnings to avoid indoor gatherings.

On Tuesday the minister warned people once again, this time against the country’s highest daily number of coronavirus cases in 2021, saying: “We must watch out. We detected 26,182 new cases today. In addition, we registered 138 deaths. The [increasing] numbers of new cases and the deaths threaten our lives, our health and the freedom we worked so hard to regain.”

Early in March, Turkey reopened most restaurants for indoor dining and allowed more students to return to school as it rolled back tough coronavirus restrictions.

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