The provinces where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) held congresses became hotspots of COVID-19 cases shortly after the mass events, state data revealed on March 1.
Ordu, Giresun, Trabzon, Rize, Tokat, Osmaniye, Balıkesir, Aksaray, Konya and Sakarya were rated as "very high risk" areas in the state's normalization plan on March 1, one to two weeks before the congresses.
The AKP Ordu Congress took place on Feb. 17, and the number of cases in the province spiked by 32.11 percent for a total of 301.76 patients per 100,000 persons in the city, making the Black Sea province the most critical location in the country in terms of COVID-19 cases.
Black Sea province Giresun followed, where the number of cases increased by a drastic 67.67 percent, spiking from 217.51 patients per 100,000 persons to 364.71 patients between Feb. 15 and Feb. 26, one to two weeks after the provincial congress was held on Feb. 8.
Another Black Sea province, Trabzon came in third in the ranking of the number of cases, with a 13.3 percent increase bringing the number of patients per 100,000 citizens to 239.52.
President Erdoğan personally bragged about the crowds at the AKP provincial congresses, saying that he was proud of filling up a hall to the brim with people despite the pandemic.
Meanwhile, İstanbul, Bolu, Zonguldak and Niğde were ranked as "high risk" areas by the Health Ministry, restricting the relaxation of COVID-19 measures according to the schedule the state laid out.
The AKP held congresses in more than 40 different provinces between Feb. 8 and Feb. 24, as the government encouraged citizens to avoid socializing.