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Turkey imposes first curfew as coronavirus infections surge

Ankara has announced its first lockdown covering 12 areas in the Black Sea coastal provinces of Rize and Trabzon as Turkey suffers its largest single-day jump in coronavirus cases.
A worker in a protective suit sprays disinfectant at Grand Bazaar, known as the Covered Bazaar, to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey, March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2YQF9U548J

The Turkish authorities announced the country’s first lockdown in 12 population centers in the Black Sea provinces of Rize and Artvin in the wake of Turkey's largest single-day jump in coronavirus cases.

Seventeen more people were killed by the novel coronavirus on March 27, bringing the total death toll to 92, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced today. The total number of cases is up to 5,998 with more than 2,000 new confirmed cases — the largest single-day surge since the country reported its first case on March 10. 

The curfew will be imposed tomorrow in some of the towns and villages in the two provinces. The town of Kenderli and five villages near it are among the locations ordered to go into lockdown, the local health officials in Rize announced Friday.

“The residents are banned from leaving their homes except for emergencies until a further notice,” the province’s health directorate’s statement read. The official body also ordered all non-essential businesses to shut down and announced that entry into these locations “will be strictly controlled.” 

Essential shops including grocery stores and bakeries will remain open to provide the basic needs of residents and there home visits by medical staff as needed, according to the statement.

Since the government has yet to provide a breakdown of the cases by location, it's unknown how many coronavirus cases have been registered in the coastal Black Sea region and in the lockdown sites in particular.

Yet, large groups of pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia have been let into Rize and allowed to move freely with no health checks in the past weeks and months, the Turkish press reported last week. 

Confirming the reports, the Rize governor’s office announced March 18 that these people will be closely monitored by local officials. 

The curfew indicates the damage has been done, at least in the locations under lockdown.

Introducing new restrictions, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Friday that moving between cities without official permission will be banned as of March 28.

Erdogan said parks and recreation centers will be also closed to the public, adding that all outdoor activities including jogging and fishing are banned.

The new restrictions came amid a rising public outcry for a national lockdown in the country where many experts are making grim predictions that Turkey may be headed for the same calamity that befell Italy. The European country’s death toll has climbed to more than 9,000 as of March 27. 

Top Turkish health officials are also backing a nationwide lockdown, but their demands are countered by the country’s economy czars, Al-Monitor reported Thursday. 

Erdogan is said to be favoring the group led by Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also his son-in-law, sources told Al-Monitor. 

The government’s economic officials are said to be concerned about the possible impact of a lockdown on Turkey’s already fragile economy, which has not fully recovered from the currency crisis in August 2018.

The impact of the outbreak on the economy is already palpable, with the Turkish lira nosediving against the dollar and other currencies.

More than 210,000 private businesses have been shut down nationwide as part of the containment efforts so far, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said March 27.

Editor's note: This article has been updated since its initial publication

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