Turkey holidays under threat as country enters a three-week lockdown – just weeks after announcing that tourists would be welcome even without a vaccine
- Turkey started its first nationwide lockdown on Thursday, it will end on May 17
- President Erdogan said it was necessary to help get daily cases under 5,000
- Residents required to stay home except for groceries and other essential needs
- Comes seven days after Turkey promised to open to British tourists without jabs
Summer holidays in Turkey are under threat as the country was forced to impose a three-week lockdown on Thursday, despite promising British tourists would be welcome, even without a vaccine, last week.
The measures were enforced from 4pm GMT (12pm EDT) on Thursday and will last until May 17 at the earliest in an effort to slow a recent spike in cases, and prevent a new one when the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends in mid-May.
It comes only seven days after Turkey announced British tourists would be welcome in the country with only a negative PCR test, and would not need to produce a vaccination certificate.
BEFORE: Summer holidays in Turkey are under threat as the country was forced to impose a three-week lockdown on Thursday
AFTER: The streets of Istanbul were deserted after 7pm on Thursday as a nationwide lockdown came into effect
The national lockdown comes despite a promise that British tourists would be welcome, even without a vaccine, last week
BEFORE: Police were out checking motorists on Thursday night as people fled the cities for the country at the start of the latest lockdown
AFTER: Istanbul’s iconic Galata Tower was deserted at the start of Turkey’s first national lockdown forcing shops and restaurants to shut
However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday daily confirmed cases would have to rapidly drop below 5,000 for Turkey ‘to not be left behind’ as many European countries start reopening.
The country relies heavily on tourism to bring in foreign currency and wants to slow infection rates before the season starts.
Turkey’s tourism minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said last week the ‘successful vaccination programmes in the UK and Turkey will ensure this season is even safer than last year’.
Mr Ersoy added: ‘We are looking forward to welcoming British tourists with open arms, as we did safely last summer.
‘We have world-class border processes in place for ensuring travel will be low-risk throughout Turkey.
‘We are working with the British authorities to ensure these necessary processes are world-class and as up-to-date as possible.
‘We will not require vaccination passports from international travellers when entering the country.’
A priority vaccination program is already underway for employees at hotels and other tourist facilities to receive a jab before the start of the summer season.
But, the country has also fallen far behind schedule for its vaccine rollout, despite a quick start to the programme in January.
To date, 22 million jabs have been administered, but only 13.55 million people have had both doses.
Erdogan has secured a deal for 100 million doses of China’s Sinovac CoronaVac, received its first deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and brokered an agreement with Russia to start producing Sputnik V domestically.
BEFORE: President Erdogan said he hoped the lockdown would also and prevent a second spike when the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends in mid-May
AFTER: A dog walks through a Turkish bazaar hours after the country’s first national lockdown was imposed on Thursday
The measures were enforced from 4pm GMT (12pm EDT) on Thursday and will last until May 17 at the earliest in an effort to slow a recent spike in cases
People stocked up on groceries, filled markets and left cities for their hometowns or the southern coast on Thursday before the country entered its strictest lockdown of the pandemic.
Erdogan’s government had previously opted for partial lockdowns or weekend curfews in a bid to reduce the economic impact.
Under the new restrictions, residents are required to stay home except for food shopping and other essential needs, while intercity travel is only allowed with permission. Restaurants are allowed to deliver food.
It comes as public health experts urge UEFA to not allow thousands of fans to travel across Europe to attend the Champions Leagues final in Istanbul, where Covid cases are sky high.
BEFORE: People stocked up on groceries, filled markets and left cities for their hometowns or the southern coast on Thursday before the country entered its strictest lockdown of the pandemic
AFTER: Under the new restrictions, residents are required to stay home except for food shopping and other essential needs
A drone photo shows empty streets following the start of the 17-day lockdown, which began at 4pm GMT (12pm EDT) and will last until May 17 amid soaring Covid-19 cases and deaths
Newly-married couple Yasemin Tuna and Murat Targut pose for their photographer as they walk in Istanbul’s deserted Istiklal Street, the main shopping street in the city, after the start of the latest lockdown to help protect people from the spread of coronavirus
BEFORE: Under the new restrictions, which will be in place until May 17 at the earliest, intercity travel is only allowed with permission
Some businesses and industries are exempt from the shutdown, including factories and agriculture, health care and supply chain and logistics companies, but most have been forced to close
Some businesses and industries are exempt from the shutdown, including factories and agriculture, health care and supply chain and logistics companies.
Lawmakers, health care workers, law enforcement officers and tourists are also exempt from the stay-home order.
Many people left large cities such as Istanbul and Ankara to spend the shutdown – which spans the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, as well as the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday – at holiday homes on the coast.
Bus terminals and airports were packed with travelers, while vehicles backed up in severe traffic at the entrance of the Aegean coastal resort of Bodrum, broadcaster Haberturk and other media reported.
This month, Turkey’s confirmed Covid-19 infections averaged around 60,000 per day during the peak week.
The country recorded its highest daily death toll on April 21, with 362 fatalities.
On Thursday, the country reported 37,674 new confirmed cases and 339 deaths. Turkey’s total death toll in the pandemic now stands at 39,737.
People take photographs on the deserted Taksim Square in Istanbul on Thursday after the start of the country’s latest lockdown
Lawmakers, health care workers, law enforcement officers and tourists are also exempt from the stay-home order
BEFORE: People are seen enjoying the sun at a park near the Bosphorus before the lockdown was imposed on Thursday
AFTER: Many people left large cities such as Istanbul and Ankara to spend the shutdown at holiday homes on the coast
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