Turkey will enforce a full lockdown from Thursday evening until May 17 to stem the spread of coronavirus, the country's president announced on Monday.
Speaking to reporters following a three-hour Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all workplaces will suspend their activities or shift to work-from-home models during the restrictions, except those excluded by the Interior Ministry such as food and manufacturing sectors.
The new measures will cover the entire holy Muslim month of Ramadan, as well as three days of the Eid festival.
"At a time when Europe is entering a phase of reopening, we must rapidly reduce our number of cases to less than 5,000 not to be left behind," he said. "Otherwise we will face consequences in every field from tourism to trade and education."
He said cafes and restaurants will only offer delivery services, while chain supermarkets will be closed on Sundays.
All intercity travel will be subject to permission, whereas public transport will operate at 50% capacity, he added. Accommodation reservations do not provide an exception.
According to earlier COVID-19 measures, those with reservations were able to travel across cities. However, with the newly-introduced full lockdown, no one will be exempted from the curfew and travel restrictions, thus making their reservations invalid.
Erdogan said face-to-face education at all institutions, including kindergartens and nurseries, would remain suspended and all exams would be postponed.
The president reiterated that no extra fees are required for services at intensive care units and for vaccination at private hospitals.
Turkey will soon begin vaccinating heads of villages and neighborhoods who have been working hard with filiation teams since the beginning of the pandemic, he said.
- Over 37,000 new cases
Turkey's Health Ministry confirmed 37,312 new COVID-19 cases, including 2,716 symptomatic patients, in the last 24 hours.
The new infections pushed the overall caseload to over 4.6 million, including 38,711 related deaths, with 353 fatalities over the past day.
As many as 48,027 more patients won the battle against the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to more than 4.1 million.
Over 46.15 million coronavirus tests have been conducted thus far, with 268,893 done since Sunday. The number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition is 3,563.
On Jan. 14, Turkey began a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign, starting with healthcare workers along with top officials to encourage public confidence in the vaccines.
It has so far administered over 21.52 million jabs. More than 13.33 million people have received their first doses, while 8.18 million have been fully vaccinated.
In the face of rising COVID-19 infections, special measures were put into effect for the first two weeks of Ramadan. The weekday curfew began at 7 p.m. (moved forward from 9 p.m.) until 5 a.m., during which inter-city travel was also banned, except in emergencies. Weekend curfews also continued in high-risk cities.
By Seda Sevencan, Merve Aydogan and Merve Berker