ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s senior citizens got their first chance to venture outside in seven weeks Sunday under relaxed coronavirus restrictions.
People aged 65 and over — the age group most at risk from the virus — were subjected to a stay-at-home curfew on March 21.
As part of a rolling program of reduced controls, they are now allowed out for four hours. People under 20, who are also subject to a curfew, will be allowed outside for a similar period later this week.
“It’s very nice to be out of the house after such a long time,” said Ethem Topaloglu, 68, who wore a medical mask as he strolled in a park in Ankara, the capital. “Although I’ve been able to sit on the balcony, it’s not the same as walking around outside.
“My neighbors have been bringing my food and other things in these last weeks,” he said. “It’s important to stay at home and be safe but it’s very difficult as well.”
The relaxed curfew for over 65s came during the fifth weekend of lockdowns in Turkey’s largest cities. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted his thanks to the elderly for their “great support” in fighting the outbreak by staying at home and reminded them to wear masks outside.
Turkey has recorded 137,115 infections, including 3,739 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.
As the number of new cases dropped, the government announced a “normalization plan” while warning of tougher measures should the number of infections rebound.
Entry and exit restrictions were lifted for seven provinces where the outbreak has been brought under control. They remain in place for 24 other provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara.
Monday will see shopping malls, barber shops and beauty salons open up under new social distancing restrictions. Domestic and some international flights will resume at the end of May.
After recording its first coronavirus case on March 11, Turkey shut down entertainment venues, sports facilities and imposed travel bans. However, a widespread curfew has not been put in place to protect the country’s economic output.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak