Turkey relaxes mask mandate amid drop in COVID-19 cases

Turkey relaxes mask mandate amid drop in COVID-19 cases
2 min read
Turkey relaxed its mask mandate on Wednesday and is also scrapping the use of codes assigned to citizens that allowed authorities to track those who have been in contact with infected people
The easing of restrictions comes amid a drop in officially recorded Covid-19 infections [Getty]

Turkey relaxed its mask mandate on Wednesday, allowing people to ditch them in open-air spaces and in places with sufficient ventilation and where social distancing can be maintained.

In a news conference following a meeting of the country’s Covid-19 advisory council, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said people would be required to continue wearing masks in planes, buses, theatres, cinemas, hospitals and classrooms.

In other steps, Turkey will no longer close down classes where two or more students have tested positive for the virus, the minister said.

The country is also scrapping the use of codes assigned to citizens that allowed authorities to track those who have been in contact with infected people, Koca told reporters. Meanwhile, only those displaying symptoms would be tested, he said.

The easing of the mask mandate and other restrictions comes amid a drop in officially recorded Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations, although some physicians have warned that cases in Turkey are still high and not enough people have been fully vaccinated.

"The person in front of you is the person who insisted on restrictions for the past two years," the minister said. "He is now saying: 'now is the time that we review everything.'"

Koca said: "There is no need to underline the word pandemic, like we did before."

The minister conceded that some experts believe the moves are premature, saying "these decisions were not taken in an absolute agreement."

Koca insisted however: "We are not removing the masks from our lives. We will be carrying them with us to wear when necessary."

Around 85% of the adult population has been double vaccinated and 27 million people in the country of more than 84 million have received booster shots. Turkey reported just under 60,000 infections on Tuesday and 203 deaths.