Turkey tightens virus rules for Ramadan

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday announced a tightening of coronavirus restrictions for the holy month of Ramadan that will include earlier evening curfews, Agence France-Presse reported.

Erdoğan also announced the end of dine-in service at restaurants and cafes that were partially reopened as rules were eased at the start of last month.

But the nation of 84 million has since seen its daily virus infection numbers soar past 50,000 as it battles a third peak that was exacerbated by the rapid spread of the more infectious British variant of the virus.

The 59,187 new virus cases and 273 fatalities reported on Tuesday were both the highest since the pandemic reached Turkey more than a year ago.

“The recent rise in the number of infections and deaths, especially in big cities, has forced us to tighten up once again,” Erdoğan said after chairing a cabinet meeting.

Erdoğan said evening curfews would now go into effect nationally at 7:00 p.m. — instead of the current 9:00 p.m. — and stay in place until Ramadan celebrations end in mid-May.

All but a select group of students will also switch to remote learning, and weekend lockdowns will go into effect across most of the country.

Weddings and other big social engagements are being canceled, and the use of public transport is restricted for those over 65 and under 20 years of age.

The new rules come with Turkey falling considerably behind its planned vaccination schedule after a quick start in mid-January.

It has given the required two shots to fewer than 8 million people and is pushing China to speed up the delivery of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine after securing a deal for 100 million doses.

Turkey has also received its first deliveries of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and is talks with Russia about Sputnik V.

Turkey’s official death toll from the virus now stands at nearly 35,000.

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