US puts Turkey on ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory list over COVID-19

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The US Department of State has issued a travel warning for Turkey, asking its citizens not to travel to the country due to the increasing number of daily coronavirus infections, in addition to the already existing warnings of the threat of terrorist attacks and arbitrary detentions.

Turkey was one of 116 countries added to the department’s “Level Four: Do Not Travel” advisory list on Tuesday, citing a “very high level of COVID-19.”

“Do not travel to Turkey due to COVID-19. … The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Turkey due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country,” read the statement posted on the Department of State website.

The warning came on April 20, a day after Turkey recorded 55,149 COVID-19 infections, the second-highest number of daily cases in the world following India, and 341 fatalities, the highest number of daily coronavirus deaths in the country.

In early March Turkey reopened most restaurants for indoor dining and allowed more students to return to school as it rolled back tough coronavirus restrictions in a move that is blamed for the soaring number of coronavirus cases in the country. Daily coronavirus cases were around 10,000 at the time.

The country, which has since seen its daily virus infection numbers soar past 60,000 as it battles a third wave that was exacerbated by the rapid spread of the more infectious British variant of the virus, reported 61,967 new cases and 362 fatalities in the last 24 hours.

The warning further urged the citizens to “exercise increased caution when traveling to Turkey due to terrorism,” adding that they shouldn’t travel to any area within six miles of the Syrian border, including the southeastern provinces of Şırnak and Hakkari, due to “the continued threat of attacks by terrorist groups, armed conflict, and civil unrest.”

“Terrorist groups … may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas,” the warning stated.

“Terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, ambushes, car bomb detonations, and improvised explosive devices, as well as shootings, and illegal roadblocks leading to violence have occurred in these areas,” the statement continued, noting that US government employees were restricted from traveling to any area within six miles of the Turkey-Syria border without prior approval.

The Department of State also warned citizens against arbitrary detentions taking place in Turkey, explaining that security forces had detained tens of thousands of individuals, including US citizens, for alleged affiliation with terrorist organizations based on “scant or secret evidence and grounds that appear to be politically motivated.”

“US citizens have also been subject to travel bans that prevent them from departing Turkey. Participation in demonstrations not explicitly approved by the Government of Turkey, as well as criticism of the government – including on social media – can result in arrest,” the department said.

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