No new pandemic measures in Turkey as number of cases reach highest this year

President Erdoğan has said that new measures against the pandemic are not being considered as the number of cases is at its highest this year. "We decided to continue the current practice in our cities in today's meeting and to closely follow the developments," Erdoğan told reporters on March 15.

Istanbul's İstiklal Avenue is seen overcrowded despite the pandemic.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkey recorded 15,503 new coronavirus cases on March 15, the highest daily rise this year, official data showed, as President Tayyip Recep Erdoğan said no new restrictions against the pandemic would be imposed for now.

Erdoğan acknowledged the recent rise in cases over the past two weeks since restrictions were eased in many provinces on March 1, when daily cases were just below 10,000 across Turkey. He said despite a rise in cases in some provinces, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit and intubation levels had not increased.

"We decided to continue the current practice in our cities in today's meeting and to closely follow the developments," Erdoğan told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Turkey eased pandemic measures two weeks ago on a province-by-province basis and said the measures would be evaluated every two weeks.

Provinces are ranked on a scale of low to very high risk based on average daily cases per 100,000 people. Although average daily cases in some provinces have risen above the cut-off for their current risk group, no changes to the provinces' status were announced.

"I think that our people were not able to show the necessary attention to abiding by the rules with the first excitement of normalization," Erdoğan said.

"God willing, by acting much more consciously and carefully from now on, we will overcome this issue altogether," he added.

According to data shared by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on March 16, the provinces with the highest risk were the Black Sea provinces of Samsun, Sinop and Giresun, the western province of Balıkesir, and the southern province of Kilis, whereas those with the least were the southeastern provinces of Siirt, Şırnak, Hakkari, Urfa and Batman. 

In Istanbul, the average daily cases per 100,000 people were 178.25 between March 6 and 12. 

Turkey, with a population of 83 million, has administered about 11.5 million vaccine doses in a campaign that began in mid-January. More than 7.93 million people have received a first shot and nearly 3.57 million a second dose of the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech.

A total of 2,894,893 COVID-19 cases have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic, the data from the Health Ministry showed on March 15. In the space of 24 hours, 63 people died due to COVID-19, bringing the cumulative death toll to 29,552.