Turkey reports record daily COVID-19 deaths at start of full lockdown

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Turkey registered a record daily high of 394 coronavirus-related deaths on the first day of a 17-day full lockdown, the strictest measures the country has seen to date, imposed by the government to bring the soaring number of coronavirus infections under control in time for the tourism season.

According to figures released by the Health Ministry on Friday, the country recorded 394 fatalities along with 31,891 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 40,131.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which had previously imposed partial, shorter lockdowns and weekend curfews in a bid to reduce the closures’ impact on the economy, decided to impose a three-week full lockdown after Turkey saw COVID-19 infections averaging around 60,000 per day during the peak week in April.

New restrictions, which took effect Thursday evening and will last until May 17, will prohibit people from leaving their homes, except to shop for groceries or meet other essential needs, during the remainder of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan as well as the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday.

A total of 10,138 people died of COVID-19 in Turkey in April, Engin Özkoç, deputy group chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said during a Thursday press conference in parliament, holding President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responsible for the latest surge in infections and fatalities.

Referring to a series of crowded indoor rallies held by the AKP in defiance of COVID-19 measures in the first three months of 2021, the lawmaker added, “Although a total of 10,138 of our citizens lost their lives after those gatherings, I don’t think he [Erdoğan] feels the least bit guilty.”

Behind schedule for its vaccine rollout despite a quick start in January, Turkey has been able to administer nearly 23 million shots, with only 13.7 million people receiving a second dose.

Erdoğan and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca have recently made contradictory statements regarding the supply of COVID-19 vaccines in Turkey. While Koca said the country would face a vaccine shortage over the next two months, the president on Friday claimed that Turkey doesn’t have any issues with procurement.

Following Erdoğan’s remarks, the minister announced that Turkey’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency had granted emergency use authorization to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Until now, Turkey has been using COVID-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd and by Pfizer/BioNTech.

Turkey has so far secured only 4.5 million BioNTech/Pfizer doses and is experiencing delays in the delivery of a promised 100 million shots from China.

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