Turkey expects daily coronavirus cases drop to 500 during Eid holiday, normalisation in June - live blog

The Turkish government expects daily new coronavirus cases to reduce to around 500 with a new lockdown as the country celebrates Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and plans for further relaxation of anti-virus measures.

"The government's normalisation preparations for post-Eid holiday gained momentum. In the meetings, it is suggested that the number of cases will decrease to 500 with the lockdown during the holiday," Hürriyet said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Monday a new lockdown to be effective in all of 81 provinces between May 23 -26 during Eid al-Fitr celebrations and announced Turkey's plans to "most complete" normalisation process in June.

"With the number of cases falling below 500, new relaxation decisions that will be introduced gradually are also being discussed," Hürriyet said.

No new novel coronavirus cases have been reported in 25 provinces for a week. In 50 provinces, the number of new cases is around 10 during the same period, the daily said, citing a report provided by Turkish health authorities.

Mosques deemed suitable by governorates and the Religious Affairs Directorate will resume worship on May 29, as part of Turkey’s normalisation steps. Two out of the five Islamic daily prayers will be held in a congregation, while only individual worship will be allowed in mosques during other times.

The intercity travel ban effective for 15 provinces has been extended for another 15 days, and visitations in prisons will not resume until June, according to Turkey's latest anti-virus measures.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry has announced that the distance-learning programme will continue until the end of the school year and classes will resume in September. Summer schools, courses and activities will continue as scheduled. Daycares and preschools are set to re-open by June 15.

(All times Turkish time - GMT+3)

21:05 - Turkey’s COVID-19 death tolls rises by 32 at start of Eid al-Fitr

Turkey’s official coronavirus death toll has risen by 32 in the past 24 hours to 4,340, according to the Health Ministry’s latest data on Sunday.

Turkey recorded 1,141 new COVID-19 cases from 24,589 tests administered since Saturday, the first day of four-day nationwide curfew. 

Some 1.83 million tests have been administered since Turkey’s first announced case of COVID-19 on March 11.

Turkey’s recovery count rose by 1,092 to 118,694.

14:15 - Normalisation in Turkey's three largest provinces will take longer time, Science Committee member says

The Turkish Health Ministry's Science Committee member Seçil Özkan said the normalisation steps in the country's three largest provinces, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, would take a longer time, Cumhuriyet reported.

"As we move toward the new normal, we expect the transitions to be a little later in our densely populated provinces such as Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir," Özkan said.

13:35 - Turkey holds first congregational prayers since coronavirus lockdown

Turkey has held its first congregational prayers at the capital of Ankara on Sunday since March when the country adopted anti-virus measures to spread of the novel coronavirus, Daily Sabah said.

Last week Turkey's top religious body announced that plans were in place to reopen mosques for communal prayers on June 12 provided proper precautions are taken. 

13:00 - Coronavirus on wane, tourists want to come back to Turkey, Foreign Minister says

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey was working toward restarting tourism, and tourists wanted to come back to visit Turkey, thanks to Ankara's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“Our German and Russian friends want to visit our country. Compared to other countries in terms of the pandemic, Turkey stands out in its case numbers. Tourists want to come for that reason,” he said.

17:20 - Turkish markets price-gouging ahead of Eid ul-Fitr, says chamber union head

Markets in Turkey are price gouging ahead of the Eid ul-Fitr, Artı Gerçek news site reported, citing the chairman of the Union of Turkish Chambers of Architecture.

Markets are charging up to five times the production cost on food items, such as dried fruits, onions and chic peas have reached up to five times that cost, Şemsi Bayraktar said.

“It is not producers, but the middleman that are making a profit. Intermediaries should respect the hard work put in by producers,” Bayraktar said.

Markets are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time on Saturday, but will remain closed between May 24-26 as Turkey remains on lockdown during the Islamic holiday of Eid.

15:10 - More than 360 healthcare professionals test positive for COVID-19 in Turkish capital

A total of 362 healthcare professionals have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus in the Turkish capital Ankara as of May 23, the Ankara chapter of the Turkish Medical Association announced on Saturday.

Seventy-five out of the 362 were doctors in hospital clinics, 48 were nurses, and 44 were cleaning staff. Twenty-five emergency care technicians and 24 family physicians were also infected by the virus.

14:50 - Turkish baklava makers record 50 pct reduction due to pandemic

Orders and sales of the traditional Turkish dessert baklava have dropped significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, Mehmet Yıldırım, head of Turkey’s Baklava and Dessert Producers Association, said.

Ramadan is usually the busiest time for baklava makers, but production fell by 50 percent in 2020, Yıldırım said.

The dessert was impacted by Turkey’s weekend curfews and other measures against the COVID-19 coronavirus, despite the Interior Ministry keeping dessert shops exempt from all lockdown orders.