ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s top medical association criticised the decision to ease restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus, saying moves were not backed by science and had come too soon, before the country had overcome the pandemic’s initial wave.
Since June 1, Turkey has lifted weekend stay-home orders, ended curbs on intercity travel, resumed some international flights and re-opened cafes, restaurants, parks, beaches and gyms.
The government has urged the public to remain cautious, while characterising the handling of the outbreak as a success.
Nearly 4,800 have died of COVID-19 so far in Turkey, according to official data, with the daily death toll falling in recent weeks to about 20.
But Cavit Isik Yavuz, a member of the coronavirus research team at the Turkish Medics Association’s (TTB), said there was still no proof that the outbreak was under control, and warned the lifting restrictions was resulting in more infections.
“At times, there is talk of when the second wave will hit, but we have not yet been able to overcome the first wave,” Yavuz told an online press conference.
“The early re-opening decisions that are not based on scientific facts, especially since June 1, have caused a rise in case numbers and the number of patients receiving treatment in ICUs and needing respirators.”
Turkey’s daily tally of newly recorded coronavirus cases has hovered just below 1,000 for two weeks, according to government data. The figure had dipped as far as 786 on June 2 after a drop-off last month.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said there had been a rise in daily cases in certain provinces, but said this had stabilised. President Tayyip Erdogan also warned of an uptick last week even as he revoked the weekend lockdown, citing a public backlash.
“We are looking for a scientific basis for nearly all the measures that are being eased, but we cannot find any,” Yavuz said. “We find it odd that in a pandemic where we lost nearly 5,000 citizens, there is an effort to find a success story.”
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Peter Graff