Turkey weighing rotating work hours in Istanbul as daily cases spike over 1,700

The governor of Turkey’s most populous city of Istanbul on Monday has said officials are weighing plans for rotating working hours for public and private sector employees as the country’s daily COVID-19 cases spike to over 1,700.

Istanbul Governor Yerlikaya pointed to the negative effects of the increased use of public transportation in the city of some 15 million, saying the governor’s office would soon be announcing a new system that would lead to the most effective  and safe use of public vehicles during the pandemic, Sabah newspaper reported.

"The monthly use of public transportation has increased to five million (people), up from around 400,000 during the beginning of March,’’ Yerlikaya said, causing the city’s municipality to convene to discuss the figures.

"Soon we will be releasing a statement,’’ he added. 

Over the past few weeks, Turkey has maintained an upward trajectory in the outbreak. On Monday, the country announced 1,716 new cases and 63 deaths linked to the deadly virus over the last 24 hours, figures similar to those last recorded in May.

Daily COVID-19 diagnoses fell below 1,000 daily from more than 4,000 following strict lockdown measures after the virus struck in mid-March.

Interior and Health Ministry officials have been holding talks to discuss coordinated measures to stem the pandemic, especially in larger cities, Hürriyet newspaper reported on Monday.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s junior coalition partner and leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has blasted critics accusing the government of failing to be transparent in pandemic figures.

"An incredible struggle against the coronavirus is on display in our country,’’ Devlet Bahçeli said on Twitter. "Those who are denying this simple truth and refuting the announced figures are obliged to speak out on whatever they know.’’

The head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) in the capital Ankara, the opposition mayors of Ankara and Ankara, among others, have accused the government of hiding the real numbers of coronavirus cases and related deaths in the country.