Turkish restaurants reopened and many children returned to school on March 2 after the government announced steps to ease COVID-19 restrictions even as cases edged higher, raising concerns among medical experts.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 1 lifted weekend lockdowns in low- and medium-risk cities and limited lockdowns to Sundays in those deemed higher risk under what he called a "controlled normalization."
Across Turkey, pre- and primary schools as well as grades 8-12 resumed partial in-person education.
Yet the moves come as new daily coronavirus cases rose to 11,837 on March 2, the highest since Jan. 7 and up from 9,891 a day earlier, according to official data. Cases were around 6,000 in late January.
"The number of mutant virus cases is increasingly rising. We do not see conditions to return to an old 'normal,'" the Turkish Medical Association said on Twitter, calling for higher rates of testing and inoculation.
"Political and economic interests must not take precedence over human life and science," it added.
Assoc. Prof. Çağhan Kızıl also pointed to the increasing number of cases, saying that normalization shouldn't be the case in the face of such a scene.
"We shouldn't normalize when the number of cases is up by 20 percent compared to yesterday," Kızıl said on March 2.
Düne göre %20 artan vakalarla normalleşmeye gidilmemeli. pic.twitter.com/gMeOqeYKwP— Caghan Kizil (@CaKizil) March 2, 2021
Turkey, with a population of 83 million, has administered 9.18 million vaccines in a campaign that began in mid-January. More than 7.18 million people have received a first shot and 2 million have received a second.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, meanwhile, said that the number of provinces that a mutated virus is spotted surpassed 70.
"It continues to increase proportionally. It spreads more easily," Koca told the daily Sabah on March 3.