Complete blockade in Turkey, people leave city

Turkey, Ankara—Turkish people stocked up groceries, filled markets, and left the city for their hometown or south coast before the country entered the strictest blockade of the pandemic.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which came into effect at 1600 GMT (12 pm EDT), imposed a “complete blockade” that lasted until May 17, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths. This is the first blockade in Japan that lasts almost three weeks. The Turkish government has previously opted for a partial blockade or a weekend curfew to reduce its economic impact.

Under the new restrictions, residents are required to stay at home except for grocery shopping and other important needs, but intercity travel is only permitted with permission. The restaurant is allowed to deliver food.

Some companies and industries, such as factories, agriculture, healthcare, supply chains and logistics companies, are exempt from closure. Parliamentarians, health care workers, law enforcement officers, and tourists are also exempt from the stay-at-home order.

Many have left large cities such as Istanbul and Ankara to spend their holidays on the coast, spanning the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and the three-day Eid holiday. The bus terminal and airport were full of tourists, but the car was caught in a traffic jam at the entrance to the resort town of Bodrum on the Aegean coast, broadcaster Habarturk and other media reported.

The grocery store remains open, but people have crowded the store to stock up on groceries and other supplies.

Stores selling alcohol are not exempt and have been forced to close during the blockade. Social media has become a tumult as users have accused Erdogan’s conservative government of trying to impose Islamic values.

COVID-19 infections confirmed in Turkey this month averaged about 60,000 per day during peak weeks. The country recorded the highest daily death toll with 362 deaths on April 21st.

On Thursday, the country reported 37,674 new confirmed cases and 339 deaths. Turkey’s total death toll in the pandemic is currently 39,737.

As many European countries begin to reopen, Erdogan said the number of daily confirmed cases needs to rapidly fall below 5,000 in order for Turkey to “keep it from being left behind.” The country relies heavily on tourism to bring in foreign currency and wants to slow down infection rates before the season begins.

Erdogan’s government has been severely criticized for hosting popular party conventions nationwide in violation of social distance rules. Opposition blamed his ruling party for the surge in cases.

High-ranking government officials were also seen attending crowded funerals, while many businesses remained closed and civilians were required to keep attendance at funerals low.

Susan Fraser