Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has on Monday announced a nationwide “full lockdown” starting on Thursday and lasting until May 17 to curb a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths around the time of traditional family gatherings and celebrations that take place when the holy month of Ramadan ends in mid-May.
Under the new lockdown, Turks will be required to stay mostly at home except for essential shopping trips and urgent medical treatment.
Erdogan announcing the new measures after a cabinet meeting, said all intercity travel would require official approval, all schools would shut and move lessons online, and a strict capacity limit would be imposed for users of public transport.
The president added “at a time when Europe is entering a phase of reopening, we need to rapidly cut our case numbers to below 5,000 not to be left behind. Otherwise, we will inevitably face heavy costs in every area, from tourism to trade and education.”
The country’s health ministry data showed, Turkey logged 37,312 new COVID-19 infections and 353 deaths in the previous 24 hours on Monday, sharply down from mid-April but still the world’s fourth highest number of cases.
Certain groups including emergency service workers and employees in the food and manufacturing sectors will be exempted from the new restrictions scheduled to take effect from 16:00 GMT (7pm local time) on Thursday and will end at 02:00 GMT on May 17.
Dozens Dead As Fire Rips Through Coronavirus Hospital In Iraq
At least 60 persons have been killed on Monday after a fire in a coronavirus isolation ward at a hospital in the Iraqi city of Nasiriya.
According to state news agency INA on Tuesday more than 100 were also injured in the fire that broke out at the al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in the southern city.
The blaze was brought under control by civil defence teams but cause of the fire at the al-Hussein hospital is still unclear even though reports suggested it began after an oxygen tank exploded.
A health official with the directorate told AFP news agency the “main reason behind the fire… was the explosion of oxygen tanks”.
Haydar al-Zamili, the local health authority’s spokesperson, said earlier on Tuesday that 52 bodies had been retrieved while 22 persons had been hurt after the fire had “ripped through the COVID isolation ward”.
Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the arrest of the head of the hospital.
State media put the death toll at 64, with nearly 70 others injured.
Since the incident there has been reported clashes between demonstrators and police at the scene, and two police vehicles set ablaze.
Health sources told Reuters news agency the death toll could rise as many patients were still missing.
The new ward, opened just three months ago, contained 70 beds.
The Dhi Qar health directorate said that among those killed were two medical staff members, and the hospital’s security guard.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, Iraq has recorded 1.4 million infections of COVID-19 with more than 17,000 fatalities.
The middle east country has given at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID to just over one million of its roughly 40 million citizens.
South Korea Puts Seoul Under Tightest COVID Restrictions
The strictest level four COVID-19 restrictions have gone into effect in greater Seoul, South Korea on Monday. Prime minister Kim Boo-Kyum said on Friday this is necessary as new COVID-19 cases climbed to a daily record for the second day running. The new measures will last for two weeks.
The country reported 1,316 new COVID-19 cases as of midnight Thursday, up from Wednesday’s previous record of 1,275 a day. On Thursday a top health official warned the numbers may nearly double by the end of July.
Under the new curbs, people are advised to stay home as much as possible, schools are closed, public meetings are restricted to two persons after 6 p.m. And rallies or other events are banned.
Nightclubs and bars would be shut, while restaurants and cafes would be allowed limited seating and only take-out services after 10 p.m.
Kim also said that during the two-week semi-lockdown, the government will suspend a program introduced earlier this year that allowed mask-free outdoor gatherings for citizens vaccinated with at least one covid-19 shot.
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