Istanbul mayor calls for weeks-long shutdown to stem pandemic

The mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, on Saturday called for a few week shutdown of the city, citing a serious spike in  coronavirus infections.

The current data on cases in the city of 16 million call for a shut down of at least two to three weeks, Diken news site cited İmamoğu as saying.

“The Covid-19 outbreak has unfortunately reached very serious levels in our country and Turkey,’’ the Istanbul mayor said. “Nobody can turn a blind eye or deaf ear on this matter… there is need for a two three week shut down.’’

Istanbul is home to 40 percent of Turkey’s surging coronavirus cases, according to the Health Ministry.

İmamoğlu’s remarks arrive as Turkey registers surge in infections, bringing the daily death toll to numbers last seen in April. Over 11,300 people have died due to the deadly virus to date, while daily infections have climbed to more than three times the figures in April, to over 3,000.

Earlier this month, the governor of Istanbul, Ali Yerlikaya, announced a series of new measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 in a bid to reduce crowds on public transportation during peak hours.

Turkey implemented nationwide reduced hours for facilities, such as cinemas and restaurants, shopping malls, cinemas and concert halls, earlier this month, followed by  a ban smoking in crowded public places across the country.

“We have entered the seventh month of the pandemic,’’ İmamoğlu said. “We are seeing an increased volume in hospitals, with certain facilities struggling with bed numbers.’’

There is no need to resist a shutdown, İmamoğlu said, in an apparent reference to the Turkish government’s unwillingness to implement such a move.

“Let us underline that we must act very swiftly regarding Istanbul,’’ he added.