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Turkey announces strictest coronavirus lockdown so far amid surge of infections

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People walk in central Istanbul, Monday, April 26, 2021.
People walk in central Istanbul, Monday, April 26, 2021.   -   Copyright  Emrah Gurel/AP
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the country's strictest pandemic restrictions so far starting Thursday to fight a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths.

The new measures will include closing businesses and schools, limiting travel and instructing people to stay at home for nearly three weeks.

Turkey had so far instituted partial lockdowns to keep businesses running as it faces a significant economic recession.

Erdogan said all businesses would have to close down unless otherwise stated by the interior ministry. Those exempt from the lockdown are expected to include agriculture, healthcare and hygiene businesses.

Supermarkets will remain open except on Sundays. Intercity travel will require permissions, and schools will switch to online education.

The measures will be in place until May 17 and include the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

"There will an uninterrupted restriction on going outside between these dates," Erdogan said.

Exceptions were expected to be announced for shopping, visits to hospitals or doctors and essential workers going to their jobs.

Turkey had previously instructed people to stay at home on evenings, weekends and holidays.

Erdogan said that without stricter restrictions and lower infection rates, there would be a "heavy price" for tourism, trade and education. He said the aim is to reduce daily infections to 5,000.

Confirmed daily infections Monday stood at 37,312 — down from a record of more than 63,000 in mid-April.

Infections and deaths soared after Turkey lifted partial restrictions in March when the government tried out a "controlled normalisation" effort by categorising Turkey's provinces into four risk tiers. That attempt failed and the virus spread across cities and provinces, fueled by mutations that made it more contagious.

The country of 83 million has recorded more than 4,6 million infections and a total of 38,711 deaths.