The Associated Press

The Turkish security forces patrolled the main streets on Friday and set up checkpoints at the entry and exit points of the cities in order to enforce the strictest COVID-19 lockdown in Turkey to date. Still, many people were on the move when the government, desperate not to shut down the economy entirely, exempted some sectors from restrictions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed the new lockdown restrictions, which went into effect Thursday evening and will last until May 17, after an alarming resurgence in which COVID-19 infections and deaths hit record highs.

Under the restrictions that include the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as well as the three-day Eid holiday, residents are prohibited from leaving their homes except for grocery shopping or other essential needs. Special permits are required for intercity travel.

However, millions of people have been exempt from staying home orders. In addition to health workers and law enforcement officers, these include factory and agricultural workers, as well as supply chain and logistics company workers. Tourists were also exempt, while restaurants are allowed to deliver groceries.

The Federation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey estimated that around 16 million workers in the country of 84 million would remain on the move during the lockdown.

The streets of Ankara and Istanbul were quieter than usual. Even so, workers exempt from the bans filled metro cars and buses in Istanbul, reported the broadcaster Halk TV.

Police patrolled the streets and set up checkpoints at the main intersections to ensure residents on the move had documents showing they were exempt from the stay at home order. Meanwhile, the gendarmerie police stopped vehicles to ensure that passengers had the necessary permits for intercity travel, resulting in long lines of vehicles.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said more than 19,000 police officers would be on duty during the lockdown and that more than 300 checkpoints would be set up.

The lockdown is the first nationwide, lasting nearly three weeks. Erdogan’s government previously imposed partial, short-term lockdowns or curfews on weekends to reduce the impact of the closings on the economy.

It was imposed after the country found confirmed COVID-19 infections averaging 60,000 a day in the peak week earlier this month. The country recorded the highest daily death toll on April 21, with 362 deaths. Erdogan said his government intends to reduce infections to around 5,000 a day.

The lockdown comes when Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said this week that Turkey is facing a vaccine shortage over the next two months and announced that the government would increase the interval between the two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine to six to eight weeks will extend. from the last 28 days.

However, Erdogan contradicted Koca, saying the country had no problem with its vaccine supply. Turkey is expected to receive large quantities of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia, as well as other shipments of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, he said. He predicted that Turkey’s own vaccines would be manufactured around September or October.

Turkey has administered more than 22.5 million doses since mid-January when it launched its vaccination campaign. Around 9 million people were fully vaccinated with two doses.

As of Thursday, the country reported 37,674 new confirmed cases and 339 deaths. The death toll in Turkey in the pandemic is now 39,737.

On the first day of a tight lockdown, a woman walks on an almost deserted promenade on the Bosphorus in Istanbul on the first day of a tight lockdown to avoid the spread of the Protect coronavirus. (AP Photo / Emrah Gurel)

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