Turkey grapples with COVID-19 surge ahead of tourism season 

Turkey grapples with COVID-19 surge ahead of tourism season 
A man wearing a facemask as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19 walks by the seaside in the Uskudar neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey, March 16, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 April 2021

Turkey grapples with COVID-19 surge ahead of tourism season 

Turkey grapples with COVID-19 surge ahead of tourism season 
  • Turkey is re-introducing strict measures during Ramadan, with gatherings for iftar and suhoor banned
  • Health experts and many members of the public blame the government for the country’s third COVID-19 wave

ANKARA: On April 7, Turkey reported 54,740 new COVID-19 cases and 276 deaths — the highest daily level since the beginning of the pandemic. The number of tests per day is currently around 302,000, meaning that over one-fifth of tests were positive.

The country currently ranks fifth globally for the reported number of daily cases based on a seven-day average. 

“Monthly COVID-19 cases tripled recently, while only nine percent of the population have received the second dose of vaccine. There is a serious shortage of vaccinations, pushing us behind schedule,” Prof. Guner Sonmez, a radiologist from Uskudar University in Istanbul, told Arab News, adding that a further increase in cases is likely soon.

“We know that, within two or three weeks, this may lead to an increase in the number of patients in intensive care units,” he continued. “Therefore, a higher death rate is likely in the following weeks.” 

Turkey is re-introducing strict measures during Ramadan, with gatherings for iftar and suhoor banned, restaurants and cafés only open for takeaway service, and weekend lockdowns throughout the holy month. 

Health experts and many members of the public blame the government for the country’s third COVID-19 wave. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was widely criticized after it held overcrowded rallies throughout the country, violating social-distancing rules. Several AKP officials tested positive for the virus just days after attending the national congress in Ankara on March 24.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca recently told a press conference, having been asked about the wisdom of holding rallies during a pandemic, “There is no point in keeping this issue on the agenda.”

Meanwhile, Turkey’s vaccination rollout continues to be slow, mostly because of an overreliance on a single supplier — China’s Sinovac. A first round of around 1.4 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was only recently administered. 

Sonmez says that Turkey’s reliance on the Chinese-manufactured vaccine has been a mistake. “The Sinovac vaccine that Turkey is using has a low success rate in protecting people against contagion,” he said, and said mRNA vaccines, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech one have around 90 percent efficacy after the second dose.

Some 75 percent of new cases in Turkey have reportedly been caused by the UK variant of COVID-19, with ICUs in major cities already getting full. Of the country’s 81 provinces, 70 are listed as ‘risky’ or ‘very risky,’ including Ankara and Istanbul.

If cases continue to rise as expected, Turkey’s tourism sector, which accounts for 11 percent of its economy, will likely be severely affected. Turkey’s tourism revenues dropped by 65.1 percent compared to last year, according to official statistics, and the government recently stopped its short-term work allowance scheme that had helped more than 3 million people financially during the pandemic. Last year, more than 100,000 small businesses went bankrupt in Turkey, mostly as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.  

“A full nationwide lockdown can only be effective if additional economic support is given to employees and employers (as it was) at the peak of the pandemic,” Sonmez said. 

On Thursday, Turkey began a vaccination campaign for its more than 1 million tourism-industry workers amid reports that Russia may restrict flights to Turkey for the summer. 


Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions
Updated 14 April 2021

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions

Turkey hails ‘new era’ with Egypt after tensions
  • Turkish officials said last month Ankara had established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013
  • Cavusoglu told Turkish reporters that the appointment of ambassadors “will come up on the agenda”

ANKARA: Turkey’s foreign minister hailed the start of “a new era” with Egypt as Ankara pushes ahead with normalizing relations with Cairo, local media reported on Wednesday.
Turkey and Egypt broke off relations after the 2013 overthrow of ex-Islamist president Muhammad Mursi, who was supported by Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
That year Turkey and Egypt expelled each others’ ambassadors and froze their relations.
Turkish officials said last month Ankara had established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013 as part of wider efforts to fix ties with other Middle Eastern rivals.
“A new era is beginning,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by NTV broadcaster.
He said there would be a meeting between the two countries’ deputy foreign ministers and diplomats but a date had not yet been set.
Cavusoglu told Turkish reporters that the appointment of ambassadors “will come up on the agenda” during those talks.
When asked, the minister also indicated there would be meetings between himself and his Egyptian counterpart.
“Why not. There can be reciprocal visits and meetings, too,” Cavusoglu said.
Last month, members of Egypt’s Istanbul-based opposition media said Turkish officials had asked them to “tone down” criticism of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
The request appeared to be an attempt by Turkey to curry favor with Egypt in a bid to mend relations.
An Egyptian broadcaster known for his outspoken criticism of Cairo on an Istanbul-based channel, said on Saturday he was going on “unlimited leave.”
Moataz Matar, 46, made the announcement during his popular daily show “With Moataz,” which he has presented for several years on the liberal El-Sharq channel.
Matar said he was not forced by Turkey or the channel to leave but added he did not want to “embarrass” anyone.
“I will come back when I am able to tell the truth on El-Sharq again as I always have,” he added.
After the Arab Spring, Istanbul became a capital of Arab media critical of their governments back home, especially for Egyptian media linked to Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.


Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt
Updated 14 April 2021

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt

Twenty killed in road accident in Egypt
  • The bus from Cairo collided with a truck loaded with cement in the province of Assiut
  • Reckless driving and the poor condition of roads are responsible for many crashes in Egypt

CAIRO: Twenty people were killed and three injured in an accident involving a bus and a truck on a desert highway in Upper Egypt late on Tuesday, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

The bus from Cairo collided with a truck loaded with cement, which was stopping due to a malfunction, in the province of Assiut, about 370 km south of the capital, the provincial governor's office said in a statement.

The bus was burned out within minutes, and the bodies and the injured were removed from it with difficulty, it added.

Thirty-six ambulances rushed to the scene, the health ministry said.

Reckless driving and the poor condition of roads are responsible for many crashes in Egypt. Dozens have been killed in a recent spate of rail and road crashes.

Eighteen people were killed in March when a truck collided with a minibus in Giza province, about 80 km south of Cairo. At least 20 people were killed and nearly 200 people wounded injured when two trains collided near Tahta, about 440 km south of Cairo.


UAE partners with Japan’s iSpace to send rover to the lunar planet in 2022

UAE partners with Japan’s iSpace to send rover to the lunar planet in 2022
Updated 14 April 2021

UAE partners with Japan’s iSpace to send rover to the lunar planet in 2022

UAE partners with Japan’s iSpace to send rover to the lunar planet in 2022

DUBAI: The UAE is collaborating with Japanese space company iSpace to help the Gulf nation land a rover to the moon next year.

Under the agreement, iSpace said it would also provide the Emirates Lunar Mission with wired communication and power during the cruise phase and wireless communication on the moon, the company said on Wednesday.

Visit the Japanese edition of Arab News for more details of the partnership.


Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people
Updated 14 April 2021

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people
  • The decisions can either be relaxed or toughened, depending on the pandemic situation

DUBAI: Oman has imposed a night-time ban on all commercial activities and movement of people throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

All types of gatherings, including iftars in mosques, tents or public places typical during Ramadan are affected by the prohibition against mass assembly, which starts from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m.

Oman’s Supreme Committee, which was created to deal with all coronavirus pandemic related developments, also imposed a ban on all social, sports and cultural activities and any other group activities throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

Key sectoral workers such as in oil, healthcare, utilities, food supply and media were however exempted from the movement ban, provided they have permissions, as well as three-ton trucks. Pharmacies were also allowed to operate during the night-time commercial ban.

The decisions can either be relaxed or toughened, depending on the pandemic situation, according to Dr. Abdullah Nasser Al-Harrasi, the minister of Information and a member of the COVID-19 Supreme Committee.


UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight
Updated 14 April 2021

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight
  • UAE health officials reported 2,022 new coronavirus cases overnight

DUBAI: The UAE administered 118,805 more doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight, bringing total jabs given to residents and citizens to 9,156,728 or about 92.58 doses per 100 individuals.

The nationwide inoculation program aims to give the population immunity from coronavirus that will help curb its spread as well as bring down infection cases.

UAE health officials reported 2,022 new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the country’s caseload to 487,697 since the pandemic began. Four deaths were also confirmed due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 1,537.

Meanwhile, an additional 1,731 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 471,906.