Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday his government is working on a detailed plan to ease coronavirus restrictions, but warned that weekend lockdowns would most likely continue until after the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in May.
In a televised address following a weekly Cabinet meeting, Erdogan said this week's curfew would start on Friday – May 1 Labor Day – a public holiday in Turkey.
The vice president would evaluate recommendations from the country's Covid-19 advisory council to decide “which steps will be taken in which fields and on which date,” Erdogan said.
His remarks come amid a decline in the number of daily deaths and infections. On Monday, Turkish officials announced 95 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest since April 11. The total death toll now stands at 2,900, with 112,261 confirmed infections.
Erdogan also said Turkey will send personal protective equipment to the United States to help it combat the outbreak. Military planes, carrying N-95 masks, hazmat suits, goggles, facial shields and disinfectants, are due to leave for the US on Tuesday.
Erdogan did not provide details on the quantities being sent, or say whether Turkey is selling or donating the equipment.
He said Turkey has already dispatched medical equipment to 55 countries “from the Balkans to Africa.”
The government has refrained from imposing a total lockdown, fearing its negative impact on the already fragile economy. It has opted for piecemeal measures instead, including weekend curfews and banning people aged over 65 or below 20 from leaving home.
Earlier, the Interior Ministry announced that authorities detained 402 people in the past 42 days for allegedly sharing “false and provocative” social media postings concerning the pandemic.
A ministry statement said officials have inspected more than 6,000 social media accounts and the 402 suspects were among 855 account-holders sought by authorities for sharing “provocative" posts.
A ministry official said the social media users were detained for allegedly attempting to “cause panic” with posts that, among other things, accuse the government of not doing enough to curb the outbreak or of lying about the numbers of deaths or infections.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.
Meanwhile, Turkey dispatched an air ambulance and repatriated a Turkish citizen who tested positive for the coronavirus in Sweden but allegedly failed to receive any treatment there.
Emrullah Gulusken, 47, was evacuated from his home in Malmo on Sunday after his daughter pleaded for help on social media. She said her father was sent back home despite his worsening condition, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Gulusken and his three of his children were flown to Ankara where they were hospitalized, the agency reported. Swedish authorities haven't commented on the case.
Turkey has repatriated around 40,000 nationals from 75 countries since the start of the outbreak in March, according to Foreign Ministry figures. [AP]