Barriers go up in Istanbul’s top shopping street as COVID-19 cases surge

The Turkish authorities have erected barriers at the main entrance of İstiklal Caddesi, Istanbul’s most famous shopping street, to restrict pedestrian traffic and help curb the spread of COVID-19, Hürriyet newspaper reported.

Only 7,000 people will be allowed to walk in the street at any one time, Hürriyet said on Wednesday. The measure will probably enter force on Thursday, it said.

İstiklal stretches about 1.5 kilometres from Istanbul’s central Taksim Square to an antique metro line near the historic Galata Tower. Major retail chains operate branches in the street, which is typically crammed with tens of thousands of people on the weekends, even after the construction of scores of indoor shopping centres in the city.

A tramline in the centre of İstiklal will be used to partition crowds and help ensure social distancing. Drones will be used to monitor pedestrian traffic, Hürriyet said.

Turkey’s Health Ministry reported 30,110 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and a record 190 deaths. Daily infections over the past few weeks place Turkey at the top of a list of countries worst affected by the pandemic such as Brazil and the United States, which have larger populations.

The authorities are unable to deal with a second wave of the virus and are under-reporting cases to manage public perception, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), said on Tuesday, according to the T24 news website.

The real number of daily infections is around 60,000, she said.