April 28, 2020 / 12:16 PM / a month ago

Turkey aims to reopen economy starting late May, senior official says

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s government aims to begin reviving the economy in late May after a sharp slowdown due to measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, while minimising any risk of a second wave of infections, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Separately, the head of a Turkish shopping malls association said there were plans for a gradual reopening from May 11 depending on demand from retailers and approval from a health authority advisory board.

Turkey has shuttered malls, schools, restaurants and cafes to curb a surge in cases of the COVID-19 disease. Though some workplaces remain open, it has imposed partial stay-at-home orders, largely closed borders and slowed domestic movement.

Turkey is seventh globally in confirmed cases of the new coronavirus at more than 112,000. And while some 2,900 people have died, there has been a fall in newly reported deaths over the last eight days.

“When we look at the case and death numbers we have come to a positive point. As of this moment, there is a possibility for the economy to reopen,” the senior official told Reuters.

“Recent studies have indicated that a reopening of the economy will be possible at the end of May and current developments confirmed this. Steps will be taken to reopen without allowing a second wave of infections.”

The official, who requested anonymity, said Turkey’s cabinet had on Monday discussed further possible tax adjustments and incentives to protect jobs and cut business costs, adding the government aims to boost hard-hit tourism and airline sectors.

Reopening “will allow positive GDP readings in the second half of the year and will minimise the annual contraction this year,” the Turkish official said.

Trade, spending, manufacturing and consumer confidence - which hit a record low this month - have stumbled as virus containment measures have pushed Turkey’s economy toward its second recession in less than two years.

In an interview, Huseyin Alltas of the Council of Shopping Centres said a planned phased reopening from May 11 would probably initially exclude cinemas, playgrounds and restaurants - where sticking to social-distancing rules would be most challenging - until the government gives approval.

Those in hard-hit cities such as Istanbul - the worst area of outbreak in Turkey - may remain closed longer, he said, adding that all malls nationwide could reopen by June.

Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Ceyda Caglayan; Additional reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun; Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Dominic Evans and Mark Heinrich

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