Tourism to Turkey under threat due to rising coronavirus cases
LONDON: Turkey’s COVID-19 infection rates are rapidly rising after the country began easing restrictions at the start of March, raising fears that its tourism industry could be hampered in the summer.
Daily cases, which stood at 8,424 on March 1, have jumped to 21,030. Turkey has struggled to limit the spread of COVID-19 as it has looked to reopen the economy while maintaining some anti-virus measures.
Bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen at half-capacity in provinces with lower infection rates, but they have been full of customers as the rules prove nearly unenforceable.
“The decision on opening up for the tourism season is up to the success of the vaccination campaign. In order to obtain herd immunity, Turkey needs to vaccinate 70 percent of the population,” said Vedat Bulut, secretary-general of the Turkish Medical Association.
“The Aegean and Mediterranean coast currently have lower infection rates than the worst-affected areas, but when the weather gets warmer people will move there for holidays. There should be a lockdown for 14 days and then we can manage to decrease the daily cases to 100 to 200.”
The loss of tourism income during the pandemic has further hit Turkey’s weakening economy.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held mass political rallies, which epidemiologists have pointed to as super-spreader events. Thirty percent of the new cases are mutations, most of them the UK variant.
The double dose of vaccinations has been given to just 5.8 percent of the population. The country aims to have vaccinated 50 million people by autumn.
That figure will see 60 percent of the population inoculated, below the herd immunity levels experts have deemed necessary to allow for further easing of restrictions.
Tourism workers will be prioritized for vaccinations, according to Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy.
His ministry has produced hygiene protocols for tourism businesses as it gambles on reopening the hospitality sector ahead of the country’s herd immunity threshold being met.
Source: Arab News