Runaway rise in Turkey Covid-19 cases spurs calls for tougher measures

Turkey introduced tighter measures a week ago, but it has done little to halt a remorseless rise in cases and fatalities.
Turkey introduced tighter measures a week ago, but it has done little to halt a remorseless rise in cases and fatalities.PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL • Coronavirus deaths in Turkey have risen to a record for the seventh consecutive day and the number of new cases remains high despite efforts by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to contain a second wave.

Turkey is expected to report this week that its economy bounced back from a sharp coronavirus-induced slump earlier this year.

But that recovery, key to Mr Erdogan's sustained political support, could be threatened by the new outbreak. The government introduced tighter measures a week ago, including nightly curfews on the weekends, restrictions on movements of people of non-working age, a move to online schooling and limiting restaurants and cafes to takeaway services.

But these have done little to halt a runaway rise in cases and deaths, with Sunday's toll of 185 dead 45 per cent above the peak of the first wave in April, and the number of new cases behind only the United States, India and Brazil - countries with far larger populations.

More than 29,000 cases were reported over a 24-hour period. Last Saturday's 30,103 was the highest recorded, but the authorities have been including only asymptomatic cases since last Wednesday.

Doctors and opposition politicians have called for stricter measures, but with shops, restaurants and hotels already hit by the new clampdown, the government is anxious to avoid further economic pain and said people had a personal duty to cooperate.

"Our health army is under a heavy burden," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.

"Each of us is responsible for following the measures."

Last Friday, Mr Erdogan attributed the resurgent pandemic to people flouting regulations.

"Masks and (social) distancing are very important, hygiene is very important. As long as these are not heeded, especially in big cities, the increasing continuation of (the virus) becomes inevitable," he told reporters.

Opponents say the government needs to take tougher action.

"The lives lost are our lives. But we see that the government is still trying to manage the situation with band-aid measures," Ms Meral Aksener, leader of the opposition IYI Party, said in Parliament.

An Istanbul hospital specialist chest surgeon Celallettin Koruturk echoed the call for stricter measures, saying that if the steps taken on the Nov 21 weekend were going to be effective, they would have made a difference by now.

"We need to act very dynamically without waiting further," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2020, with the headline 'Runaway rise in Turkey cases spurs calls for tougher measures'. Print Edition | Subscribe