Turkey to further ease coronavirus restrictions from July

FILE PHOTO: A staff member stands next to empty tables as cafes and restaurants reopen after closing down for months amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Istanbul, Turkey June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey will further relax restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 from next month, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday after the number of daily coronavirus cases in the country fell to around 5,000.

Lockdowns that had been imposed on Sundays and curfews from 1900 GMT on weekdays would be lifted from July 1, Erdogan said after a government cabinet meeting.

"Public transportation restrictions will also be lifted and public institutions will return to normal working hours," Erdogan said.

Turkey began easing curbs in recent weeks, limiting the lockdown to Sunday and opening restaurants to a limited number of guests, after daily cases began to fall from a peak above 60,000 in April.

Ankara is hoping that the decline in infections, along with an acceleration in its vaccination programme to some 1.5 million shots a day, will help begin a recovery in tourism.

The sharp rise in inoculation levels has also raised hopes of a strong economic performance in the second half of the year, with JP Morgan last week revising its full-year economic growth forecast up to 6.8%, citing the pace of vaccinations.

Turkey's daily COVID-19 cases were 5,294 on Monday, when the number of recorded deaths was 51, health ministry data showed.

Erdogan also said music, including concerts, will only be allowed until midnight, prompting a strong reaction on social media where it was interpreted as an ideological move by the government that will intervene with lifestyles.

"We are pushing back the deadline on music to midnight, no offence but noone has a right to disturb anyone at night," Erdogan said, without elaborating further.

(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Daren Butler; Editing by Grant McCool and Alexander Smith)

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