Turkey Imposes New Virus Curbs to Save Summer Tourist Season
(Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed new restrictions to fight record-high coronavirus cases in an effort to save this summer’s crucial vacation season, warning that even tougher measures could follow if the outbreak isn’t slowed.
Erdogan ordered a two-week travel ban between cities, extended weekday curfews by two hours, and shut cafes and sports halls until mid-May after assessing options at a cabinet meeting.
Officials fear that an uncontrolled surge in Covid-19 infections could see a wave of hotel cancellations at the beginning of the holiday period, a critical generator of revenue for Turkey, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named discussing confidential information.
“The tourism industry is waiting for conditions to return to normal,” Erdogan said. “If there is no improvement in two weeks, it will be inevitable to impose tougher measures.”
Tourism industry employees are already being vaccinated, but Russia, the biggest source of vacationers to Turkey last year, suspended most air travel with the country on Monday, citing the rising number of cases.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca late Monday said Turkey should enter a period of “limited contact and movement” to curb the coronavirus. He said 80% of Turkey’s population live in areas deemed “very high risk.”
Daily cases have been rising since authorities began lifting curbs on March 1, when each region was color-coded to reflect the severity of the risk. Weekend curfews were reintroduced in many areas at the end of that month, including in the major cities of Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.
Infections and fatalities marched upwards to record highs. On Monday, officials reported 54,652 new cases -- a more than fivefold increase since early March -- and 243 deaths. Turkey has vaccinated 18 million people, or more than 20% of its almost 84 million population. Of those, 7.5 million have received second doses.
The government hoped to lure 31 million visitors to its beaches, cities and resorts this year, and generate more than $23.3 billion. In 2020, foreign tourist arrivals slumped to 12.7 million from 45 million the previous year.
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