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Turkey to ease coronavirus restrictions from July as daily cases drop

Sunday lockdowns and weekday curfews to be lifted starting 1 July, says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
A man receives a dose of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 in Ankara, Turkey, on 7 June 2021.
A man receives a dose of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 in Ankara, Turkey, on 7 June 2021 (AFP)

Turkey will relax restrictions imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19 after the number of daily cases fell to around 5,000, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Following a cabinet meeting, Erdogan announced the lifting of lockdowns from 1 July that had been imposed on Sundays and curfews after 1900 GMT on weekdays.

"Public transportation restrictions will also be lifted and public institutions will return to normal working hours," Erdogan said.

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Turkey started easing curbs in recent weeks, limiting the lockdown to Sunday and opening restaurants to a limited number of guests, after daily cases began to fall from a peak above 60,000 in April.

Erdogan lifted virtually all social restrictions in March but backtracked in April when cases soared and Turkey was briefly ranked as second, globally, with the highest number of daily cases. A partial lockdown was imposed from the end of April to 17 May.

The country has reported more than 5.3 million cases of the virus, including more than 49,000 deaths, according to Turkey's health ministry. Of those cases, 5.2 million people recovered.

Turkey is hoping that the decline in infections, along with an acceleration in its vaccination programme to some 1.5 million injections a day, will help begin a recovery in its tourism sector.

Inoculations passed the 40 million mark and 40 percent of adults had had at least one dose, according to a Reuters tally.

"We have administered the largest number of vaccines in proportion to population in the past week in the world," Erdogan said.

Turkey's tourism sector is facing a second sluggish summer because of international travel restrictions, but could get a late boost if the vaccination pace continues and Covid-19 cases are contained.

The sharp rise in inoculation levels has also raised hopes of a strong economic performance in the second half of the year. JPMorgan revised its full-year economic growth forecast up to 6.8 percent last week, citing the pace of vaccinations.

Still, Erdogan has said that the current level of daily Covid-19 cases is still "too much".

"Currently, the rate of infection has dropped seriously. But we need to decrease this rate further. The number of cases is around 5,000 per day. We think this is too much. The number of daily deaths is around 50. We don't want this either," Erdogan said on Sunday, as quoted by Anadolu.