Turkey’s daily COVID-19 cases rise above 60,000, deaths hit record high

Turkey recorded a total of 61,028 daily cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 346 deaths due to the deadly virus, according to Health Ministry figures.

The number of daily deaths was the highest since the start of the outbreak in March last year, according to the data.

Turkey is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 infections and fatalities after relaxing restrictions on the population at the start of March, including re-opening restaurants and cafes in many provinces. It has reimposed many of the measures, introducing curfews earlier in April for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Top medical practitioners have called on the government to tighten the curbs, saying the health system is becoming overloaded. On Sunday, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, chairwoman of the Turkish Medical Association, warned of the possible collapse of the healthcare system and a rapid increase in ICU occupancy rates. “ICUs are ringing the alarm in the last two weeks,” Turkish Intensive Care Association Chairman Dr İsmail Cinel told BBC Turkish at the weekend.

The ministry said on Tuesday that 69.1 percent of the capacity of adult intensive care units was occupied with patients.

Concerns over Turkey’s commitment to lockdown measures were raised late last month after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) held a congress in the Turkish capital of Ankara where thousands of people gathered in a hall with few protective measures in place.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya and Director of Religious Affairs Ali Erbaş attended a funeral of an Islamic scholar along with thousands of people who were mostly wearing masks, with no social distancing.

Soylu helped carry the casket along with many others, as per tradition.

On Saturday, Soylu said “images showing those exempted from curfews abusing the privilege cast a shadow on the sacrifices and sincerity shown during the fight against the pandemic”, according to a ministry statement.

Soylu announced “a new mobilisation effort” on the same day, saying abuse of exemptions would not be tolerated, and tighter controls to curb the spread of the deadly virus would be implemented.