Istanbul pandemic restrictions appear inevitable, says health minister

Stricter measures against the deadly coronavirus appear inevitable for Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Saturday, when the country registered over 3,000 new cases in the last 24 hours. 

Koca made the remarks on Twitter following a meeting with local health authorities on COVID-19-prompted influx to hospitals in Istanbul, which is home to 40 percent of Turkey’s soaring cases.

“We discussed the increasing loads at the hospitals, contact tracing, restrictions that seem inevitable and our new strategies to fight the virus in our meeting with the provincial health director and chief physicians,” Koca said on Twitter.

The remarks by the country’s top health official follow a call by the mayor of the city, Ekrem İmamoğlu, on Saturday for a two to three week shutdown due to a high number of cases.

Overall,Turkey has registered a spike 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.

Meanwhile, Turkey has 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 in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19.