Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

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People walk on Istiklal Street, Istanbul’s main shopping street, on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government on Thursday eased restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. . Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

Men play cards and backgamm again at their local cafes, cinemas are cleaned before the first night screening, and bars serve beer and chips on Istanbul’s famous pedestrian avenue.

Turkey has eased almost all pandemic restrictions on business and events since Thursday and has lifted night and Sunday curfews as new infections remain consistently below recent highs.

“We no longer have the patience to stay at home, both financially and spiritually,” said Fatih Aydin, a 42-year-old worker.

An Interior Ministry circular said restaurants, which reopened weeks ago, and wedding parties should no longer limit the number of guests, but should follow the rules of social distancing. Only hookah shops remain closed.

Concerts and festivals can continue inside and inside, but the music has to end at midnight even though there is no curfew anymore. Restrictions on with age limits and passengers have also been reduced.

Turkey’s mandate for outdoor masks and in public places remains, although, as elsewhere, many people do not wear masks properly. “We’re fed up with this masked life, I think we need to get back to normal life,” said Huseyin Baytas, 24.

Although this was the most extensive relaxation of measures since the beginning of the pandemic, the threat remains. Turkey has been gradually easing restrictions since mid-May after the end of the so-called “complete closure” from which millions of workers and tourists were exempt. The partial closure in mid-April was extended to a stay-at-home order for nearly three weeks after daily cases reached an all-time high of more than 63,000.

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    People play cards in an Istanbul cafe, have fun in an Istanbul restaurant on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government on Thursday eased restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    People walk on Istiklal Street, Istanbul’s main shopping street, on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government on Thursday eased restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. . Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    People play cards in an Istanbul cafe and have fun in an Istanbul restaurant on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government on Thursday eased restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment. centers. Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    People are having fun at a restaurant in Istanbul on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government on Thursday eased restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    Cleanup staff are preparing a movie theater for reopening after several months closed as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in Istanbul on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government softened on Thursday restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus, and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    People sit in a restaurant in Istanbul on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government on Thursday eased restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    People sit in a restaurant in Istanbul on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government on Thursday eased restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    The mannequins that were used to be placed on tables to ensure social distancing to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, appear in a restaurant in Istanbul on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government softened on Thursday restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    A woman is taking pictures in Istanbul on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government on Thursday eased restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    A woman takes photos in Istanbul on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government on Thursday eased restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

  • Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as a plateau of new cases

    Cleanup staff are preparing a movie theater for reopening after several months closed as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in Istanbul on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The Turkish government softened on Thursday restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus, and have reopened theaters, cinemas and other entertainment centers. Credit: AP Photo / Emrah Gurel

Infections and deaths have decreased since then, but cases have ranged from an average of seven days to around 5,500 a day. Turkey’s vaccination push has also picked up speed, surpassing the 50 million doses administered as of Thursday. But only 18% of Turkey’s nearly 84 million population has been completely vaccinated with shots by Pfizer-BioNTech and the Chinese Sinovac.

As thousands of tourists arrive on the shores of Turkey from Russia, where there has been an increase in infection, fears abound about the highly infectious delta coronavirus variant first identified in India. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said this week that 224 cases of the variant had been identified so far.

On Wednesday, Koca reduced the waiting time between two doses of vaccine to four weeks. He also announced that healthcare workers and people over the age of 50 could choose to get a third dose, amid concerns about the long-term effectiveness of Sinovac, especially to treat the delta variant.

Deniz Seckin, a 40-year-old engineer, said she is not prepared to give up precautions. “The danger isn’t over 100%. I’ve only had the first dose of vaccine. There’s the delta variant and the infections don’t go below 5,000.”


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