Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Turkey to impose four-day lockdown in at least 15 provinces May 16-20 due to coronavirus activity. Other restrictions remain in place.

This alert affects Turkey

This alert began 12 May 2020 18:02 GMT and is scheduled to expire 30 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: May 16-20
  • Impact: Significant travel and business disruptions

Turkish authorities plan to implement a four-day lockdown in several provinces from 0001 May 16 to 0001 May 20 as part of the nation's effort to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The measure coincides with Turkey's long holiday weekend marking the Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day on May 19; authorities have imposed similar restrictions over previous long holiday weekends in order to discourage excursions.

The government's statement concerning the upcoming lockdown is unclear as to precisely which provinces will be affected. The measure will definitely be in effect in the 15 provinces where intercity travel restrictions remain in force - specifically, Ankara, Balikesir, Bursa, Eskisehir, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Izmir, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Manisa, Sakarya, Samsun, Van, and Zonguldak. Still, national authorities have not clarified whether provinces no longer under intercity travel bans will also be on lockdown for the holiday weekend. The government lifted the prohibition on intercity travel in the provinces of Antalya, Aydin, Erzurum, Hatay, Malatya, Mersin, and Mugla on May 5, followed by Adana, Diyarbakir, Mardin, Trabzon, Ordu, Denizli, Kahramanmaras, Sanliurfa and Tekirdag provinces on May 11. The governors of Adana, Aydin, Denizli, Diyarbakir, Sanliurfa, and Trabzon provinces have stated that the May 16-20 lockdown will not affect their jurisdictions.

Authorities have also eased a number of other COVID-19-related restrictions, including:

  • Hair salons, shopping malls, and some stores have been allowed to reopen as of May 11.
  • Residents over age 65 are permitted to leave their homes for four hours daily from May 11.
  • From May 13, persons under the age of 14 may be outdoors within walking distance of their homes from 1100-1500.

Certain land, air, and sea travel restrictions remain in place; freight and emergency transport operations are exempt. Some international commercial passenger flights departing Turkey for major cities in Europe and the US are occurring on an ad hoc basis; however, service is very limited and sporadic. Departure schedules and flight availability may vary significantly from week to week. Additionally, individual airlines have suspended operations, with Turkish Airlines (TK) halting regularly scheduled flights until at least May 28, and Pegasus Airlines (PC) suspending their flights until May 15.

Authorities continue to urge residents to stay at home unless performing essential tasks. Face masks are mandatory in crowded areas. Officials have banned picnics, fishing, and other outdoor recreational activities, along with closing public squares, beaches, and parks. Other restrictions include:

  • All regularly scheduled international passenger flights are suspended indefinitely.
  • All resignations of public and private health personnel are suspended through at least June 27.
  • The sale of nonessential items is prohibited.
  • No more than 50 people are allowed inside an enclosed marketplace at a time.
  • Residents returning to Turkey must be tested for COVID-19 on arrival, potentially resulting in quarantine or other mobility restrictions.
  • Turkey's borders with Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Greece, Iran, and Iraq are closed indefinitely; freight trucks are still permitted to cross, subject to health screening.
  • All education facilities, restaurants, bars, and cafes are closed, and all sporting events and mass religious events are suspended indefinitely.

The further easing or reimplementation of restrictions will be contingent upon no major increase in disease activity over the coming weeks. All restrictions are subject to amendment at short notice.

Background and Analysis
Turkey's travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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