Turkish opposition leader Babacan contracts COVID-19 as infections continue to climb

(Updates with infections in Babacan's family)

Former Turkish deputy prime minister and head of opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) Ali Babacan announced on Tuesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, as Turkey saw another day of record-breaking daily infections since June.

"I just learned that my COVID-19 test result is positive,’’ the former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Twitter. "I am doing well at the moment… I will continue my work from home.’’

On Saturday, Babacan said that his wife, Zeynep, and youngest son Emir had also contracted the virus. All three were receiving treatment at home, he said.

Babacan, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) quit the AKP last year to found DEVA in March. Babacan's party is widely considered to be a real potential challenge to Erdogan's AKP.

Turkey on Tuesday announced 1,502 new infections since Monday afternoon, marking a second consecutive record high in the past two months. Twenty -four people in the country died on Tuesday after contracting the virus, the Health Ministry said.

"The most important goal in our struggle is to decrease the number of new infections,’’ Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter. "It is mandatory to follow precaution to reach this goal.’’ 

The steady increase in infections from July 23, when 902 cases were recorded, has prompted officials to reintroduce protective measures that had been lifted in June.

Moreover, the country’s top medical group, The Turkish Medical Association (TTB), and unaffiliated experts say that the country’s actual number of COVID-19 cases is much higher than figures reported by the Health Ministry.

The Interior Ministry on Tuesday announced it was banning a number of social activities, including henna nights and engagement ceremonies, while placing further restrictions on weddings in 14 provinces as of Aug. 24, Sabah newspaper reported.

Weddings will have a one-hour time limit, with chairs in the reception halls arranged according to social distancing rules, according to a circular the ministry issued. All dance floors in halls will be closed.

The provinces subject to the new restrictions include capital Ankara, the central provinces of Çorum, Kayseri, Konya and Yozgat, the northwestern province of Bursa and the southeastern provinces of Gaziantep, Şanlurfa and Diyarbakır.