Turkey bans smoking in public areas amid surge of COVID-19 patients

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Man wearing a protective mask stands in front of a fish and bread restaurant in Istanbul
FILE PHOTO: Man wearing a protective mask stands in front of a fish and bread restaurant in Istanbul

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey on Wednesday banned smoking in crowded public places to slow a recent surge in symptomatic coronavirus patients, the Interior Minister said, as the government warned citizens to abide by protective measures.

Daily coronavirus cases in Turkey have recently spiked, with 2,693 patients identified on Wednesday. Ankara only reports the number of those who show symptoms, a decision which critics have said hides the true scale of the outbreak in the country.

In a nationwide notice, the Interior Ministry said the smoking ban aimed to ensure citizens comply with rules to wear protective masks properly in public because people were seen to lower them while smoking.

"For this reason, in order to ensure that masks are worn at all times and properly, as of November 12, 2020, a smoking ban will be imposed in areas and regions such as streets and avenues where citizens are or can be crowded together, necessary public squares and public transportation stops," the ministry said.

Earlier, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca urged citizens to comply fully with mask wearing and social distancing rules. "I am only asking you to do what you can. Nothing more," Koca wrote on Twitter.

Earlier this week, a partial lockdown on senior citizens was also imposed in some provinces, including the capital Ankara and its largest city Istanbul, banning citizens over 65 from being outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

President Tayyip Erdogan announced last week that all business, including restaurants, cafes, pools and cinemas, would close at 10 p.m. daily as part of measures against the pandemic.

More than 400,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Turkey and 11,145 have died from the respiratory disease, according to Health Ministry data.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Mark Heinrich)