Turkey's COVID-19 cases below 20,000 for first time since mid-March

Turkish Health Ministry data revealed on May 8 that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country fell below 20,000 for the first time since mid-March.

People walk along closed shops at Eminonu district in Istanbul, Turkey, during a nationwide lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), May 5, 2021.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkey's daily COVID-19 cases fell below 20,000 for the first time since March 17 on May 8, with 18,052 infections over the last 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed.

Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced what he called a "full lockdown" until May 17 to curb a surge in infections and deaths after the country eased restrictions in early March.

The data showed another 281 deaths from the coronavirus on May 8, raising the total toll to 42,746. Total cases exceeded 5 million, although there has been a fall in infections since the lockdown.

In recent weeks, Turkey has ranked fourth globally in terms of COVID-19 cases, with daily infections topping 60,000.

However, Erdoğan said earlier on May 8 that he hoped a "new normalization" period would begin after May 17, adding that reopening schools would be included in steps to be announced after the lockdown.

"There is a serious fall in death numbers now. This shows the measures we took are paying off," Erdoğan said.

Despite the recent fall in infections, Turkey on May 7 was placed on the UK government's travel red list, a move that threw the status of the Champions League final on May 29 and the Formula One Turkish Grand Prix on June 11-13 - both to be held in Istanbul - into doubt.

The pandemic has also hurt Turkey's tourism revenues, which plunged by two-thirds to $12 billion last year.