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Turkey bans supermarkets from selling non-essential goods during lockdown

A customer shops for alcoholic beverages at a supermarket ahead of a 17-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, in Istanbul on April 29, 2021. With the highest infection rate in Europe, Turkey enters a full lockdown until May 17, with all non-essential businesses to close and travel between regions restricted. Alcohol sales at groceries and chain stores will be banned to prevent unfair competition with closed small liquor stores. BULENT KILIC / AFP

The Turkish Interior Ministry on Tuesday released a circular informing governor’s offices that supermarkets and other shops wouldn’t be allowed to sell goods other than essential food and cleaning products in addition to pet food and cosmetics as of May 7.

According to the circular, the ban on the sale of stationery, clothing and accessories, toys, electronics, garden supplies and perfume, which are considered non-essential products, will take effect on Friday and will last until the end of the full lockdown on May 17.

“The circular was prepared with the aim of preventing overcrowding in supermarkets during the full lockdown, following meetings with representatives from state institutions and organizations in addition to trade associations,” the circular said.

As part of the lockdown measures introduced after Turkey saw COVID-19 infections averaging around 60,000 per day during the peak week in April, people are prohibited from leaving their homes except to shop for groceries or meet other essential needs, until May 17.

The latest restriction came in addition to a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages during the lockdown, which last week drew the ire of secular Turks who accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of trying to force his Islamic values on the nation of 83 million by way of a ban that has nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government faced an unprecedented backlash against the ban as thousands of social media users reacted under the hashtag #alkolümedokunma (Don’t touch my alcohol), which became the top trending item on Twitter in Turkey on April 27.

In line with the support of secular circles, many liquor stores – also known as Tekel stores – and some major supermarket chains in Turkey, such as Migros and CarrefourSA, continued selling alcoholic beverages last week, citing the lack of a proper legal framework for the ban.

Erol Dündar, head of the Tekel Dealers Assistance Association, on Tuesday told the Cumhuriyet daily that a licensed dealer was detained on İstanbul’s European side for selling alcoholic beverages in defiance of the ban.

“It looks like the government pressure on dealers will continue,” Dündar said, adding that they applied to a court for a stay of execution of local bans on sales of alcoholic beverages recently imposed by the governor’s offices of more than 20 provinces so far.

Turkey reported 24.733 new coronavirus cases and 347 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the pandemic’s death toll to 41.191.

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