June 5, 2020 / 9:37 AM / a month ago

Erdogan backtracks on weekend lockdown after public backlash

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia March 5, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

ISTANBUL/ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday backtracked on extending weekend lockdowns following a public backlash, but warned about a rise in the number of daily coronavirus cases.

Turkey re-opened cafes, restaurants and other facilities on Monday, while also lifting restrictions on intercity travel and resuming domestic flights amid a slowdown in death and infection rates.

Turkey had also introduced weekend lockdowns across big cities on April 11.

The interior ministry extended the weekend lockdown overnight, a day after Health Minister Fahretting Koca said that his team would not recommend such a move. In a series of tweets, Erdogan said on Friday the government had to stick to the lockdown after a rise in daily new COVID-19 cases from around 700 to nearly 1,000.

Then he changed his mind.

“As a result of this negative development, we had to once again bring the stay-at-home order on our agenda,” Erdogan said. “However, the reactions we received from our people pushed us to re-evaluate the decision,” he added.

“Our hearts did not feel at ease with our citizens feeling trouble as they began to re-order their daily lives once again after 2.5 months,” he said, urging citizens instead to follow social distancing and hygiene measures closely.

The virus has killed 4,630 people in Turkey, with 167,410 infections so far. The economy is expected to tip into recession as a result of containment measures, but Erdogan has promised a quick recovery.

Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler and Nick Macfie

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