Turkey to ease daytime lockdown measures from Monday but curfews to stay - ministry

FILE PHOTO: People walk past by closed shops at deserted Mahmutpasa street, a popular middle-class shopping district, during a nationwide "full closure" imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) contagion in Istanbul, Turkey April 30, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey will start easing its strict coronavirus lockdown on Monday by allowing movement during the day while keeping overnight and weekend curfews in place, the Interior Ministry said in a directive on Sunday.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkey would gradually ease out of a full lockdown imposed 2-1/2 weeks ago, and lift restrictions more significantly in June.

Turkish authorities tightened coronavirus measures after the number of daily COVID-19 cases soared above 60,000 in April, one of the highest rates globally, and deaths reached nearly 400 a day.

Until June 1, people will have to remain at home between 9 pm and 5 am during weekdays and from Friday evening until Monday morning, aside from meeting basic shopping needs, the ministry directive said.

It said inter-city travel will be allowed outside of curfew hours, while restaurants and cafes will be limited to takeaway services. Shopping malls will open on weekdays but facilities such as sports clubs and cinemas will remain shut, it added.

While Turkey has imposed curbs on people's movements and activities throughout the pandemic, Erdogan has sought to maintain economic production by keeping factories open even during full lockdown.

The surge in cases has threatened to hit its lucrative summer tourism season, and has already prompted the switch of the Champions League final from Istanbul to Portugal, while Formula One called off the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix on Friday.

The number of daily new cases has fallen to 11,000, sharply down from last month but still above the target of 5,000 Erdogan set at the start of the lockdown. Around 10.8 million people have been fully vaccinated, or 13% of the population, with 14.9 million having received only a first dose.

(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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