Turkey tightens controls in public places over virus threat
April 4, 2020 07:38 PM
Turkey stepped up controls Saturday on crowded public spaces including markets and ferries in Istanbul a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed the use of face masks to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
Turkey has so far recorded 425 coronavirus-related deaths and nearly 21,000 cases, most of them in the country's economic capital Istanbul, according to official figures. From Saturday, all those going out to shops or markets must wear a face mask, Erdogan said, calling on the population to maintain a distance of "three paces" from each other when outside.
At an Istanbul bazaar in the Besiktas neighbourhood open every Saturday, police and local municipal employees handled the use of masks and hand disinfectants, while checking the temperature of incoming customers at the entrance.
Veli Yildirim, 50, who sells vegetables including tomatoes, said the measures came "too late."
"We are the latest compared to the rest of the world. Even this is not enough, there should be a complete lockdown" in Istanbul, he told AFP.
A 60-year-old customer in the bazaar, Asuman Karaman wearing a mask, agreed: "If these measures had been taken one or two months earlier, maybe the virus would not have been so widespread."
The bazaar looked quite calm -- in stark contrast to its usual noisy and crowded state. Vendors complained their business was hit badly. "This has a had a big impact, there is no one at the market, at this time of the day, we have nothing to do here," said Abbas Kose, who sells vine leaves.
At the ferries in Istanbul, passengers were seen wearing face masks. The city's mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has been calling for total confinement but authorities have so far stopped short of that.
As part of the measures taken nationwide, authorities suspended international flights, issued a confinement order for everyone aged under 20 and over 65 and shut schools. Erdogan on Friday also said vehicles would no longer be able to leave or enter 31 towns and cities, including Istanbul, for 15 days.