Turkey in weekend lockdown as coronavirus cases hit record highs


A social distancing sign is seen at the entrance of the main shopping and pedestrian street of Istiklal?during a nation-wide weekend curfew which was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey December 5, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey has entered its first full weekend lockdown since May after coronavirus infections and deaths hit record highs in recent days.

The country of 83 million people on Friday recorded 32,736 new cases, including asymptomatic ones, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic in March.

The total death toll rose by 193 on Friday, touching a daily record level seen earlier this week, to 14,509.

Turkish television showed largely empty squares and streets on Saturday in the largest city Istanbul, the capital Ankara and the third largest city Izmir, with only a few people and vehicles out and about.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu was quoted as saying by state-owned Anadolu news agency that most people were obeying the lockdown rules.

Turkey now ranks fourth globally for the number of daily new cases, behind only the United States, India and Brazil - all countries with far larger populations than Turkey.

For four months, Turkey only reported daily symptomatic cases, but it has reported all cases since Nov. 25. Historical data for all positive cases and the cumulative total are still not available.

Turkey last imposed full weekend lockdowns in large cities in May. It announced nationwide weekend curfews last month, but the measures failed to halt the rise in new cases and deaths.

President Tayyip Erdogan announced the full weekend lockdown on Monday, as well as a curfew on weekdays. He said measures against the coronavirus were being taken carefully to minimise the impact on the economy.

The lockdown and curfews exclude some sectors, including supply chains and production.

Turkey's economy contracted 9.9% year-on-year in the second quarter due to the coronavirus restrictions. It rebounded in the third quarter, growing 6.7% after the restrictions were lifted.

Economists expect the new measures to have a lesser impact on growth in the final quarter than they did in the second.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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