Turkish businesses call for mandatory masks to stop second COVID-19 wave

Turkish businesses have called for the mandatory use of medical masks in public to stave off a second wave of contagion, Daily Sabah reported on Wednesday, after coronavirus infections spiked since Turkey eased prevention measures earlier this month.

A new wave of COVID-19 could financially cripple already-battered companies, bringing further months of business suspension along with health measures-related additional costs at the workplace, the Turkish news outlet said.

Turkey has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus infections over the past few days, raising concerns that a decision to ease government-sanctioned pandemic measures, including an end to weekend lockdowns and domestic travel restrictions at the end of May, may be compromising efforts to stem the outbreak.

The number of new cases increased from below 1,000 last week to 1,467 on Tuesday, according to Health Ministry data.

“Seeing people walk on the street without a mask is a worrying scene for the sector. Some firms already began to feel the effects of the recent uptick in infections,” Daily Sabah quoted Ahmet Öksüz, head of the Istanbul Textile and Raw Materials Exporters Association (İTHİB) Öksüz as saying.

Öksüz says the government should take tougher measures on those who refuse to wear face masks in public.

Representatives of Turkey’s tourism industry, a sector among those hardest hit by the pandemic’s fallout, say all sector efforts to implement safety measures could be in vain unless the general public abides by government guidelines on social distancing.

“Making compromises on health measures could mean wasting all the time and effort we have put in implementing preventive measures against the virus,” said Müberra Eresin, chairman of the Hoteliers Association of Turkey (TÜROB).

Turkey's $35 billion tourism sector, a vital source of foreign currency revenue and economic growth, seeks to rebound from the pandemic following the end of months-long lockdowns and a partial resumption of international flights earlier this month.

Health Minister Fahretttin Koca on Tuesday warned that certain group behaviours and regions played a role in the recent infection figures, and urged all citizens to continue following pandemic measures.