Turkey set to ease restrictions amid anger over tourist privileges

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A 17-day strict coronavirus lockdown remained in place in Turkey on Sunday ahead of the easing of restrictions set for Monday morning, with restaurants and cafes remaining shuttered, the Interior Ministry said.

Among rules that will continue to be enforced until June 1 are a curfew that starts at 9 pm. Schools will also remain closed, while travel between cities is once again being allowed.

The rules do not apply to tourists. This fact, along with a ban on the sale of alcohol, has provoked opposition from many Turks, and an official video advertising holidays in Turkey was taken off the internet on Friday following public outrage.

It showed people working in the tourism sector wearing masks with “Enjoy, I’m vaccinated,” inscribed on them. The opposition saw the video as insulting, as workers in the tourist sector had been prioritized, leading others to see themselves as second-class citizens.

Some 18 per cent of the population of 84 million have received their first vaccination, with the Turkish Medical Association accusing the government of a lack of transparency in its campaign and calling for the rapid vaccination of teachers.

From more than 60,000 new infections daily in mid-April, the figure has fallen to around 11,000, with doctors saying that fewer people are now being tested.

Since the start of the pandemic, Turkey has recorded around 5.1 million infections and 44,500 deaths from the novel coronavirus.

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