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Turkey's Erdogan cancels surprise weekend curfew

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday canceled a decision to impose a new, two-day weekend curfew in 15 of the country’s provinces that took many by surprise. Erdogan said on Twitter that he was reversing the decision on grounds that it "would have diverse social and economic consequences.”

He did not elaborate but the surprise decision to renew a weekend stay-at-home order, announced earlier on Friday, had caused confusion, with many people scrambling to cancel train or air tickets or other weekend travel plans.

Erdogan said: “I did not find it in my heart to allow our citizens who started to re-organize their daily lives after a 2.5-month break, to suffer.” He did, however, urge people to wear masks, abide by social distancing practices and maintain high levels of hygiene.

The Interior Ministry had announced the stay-at-home order in 15 provinces including Istanbul and Ankara even as the country lifted a raft of restrictions earlier in the week. Domestic air travel resumed, restaurants began welcoming sit-in customers and beaches, swimming pools, parks, gyms and museums reopened amid a slowdown in the virus’ spread.

Alpay Azap, a member of Turkey's scientific advisory body, said the new weekend curfew was announced because of an uptick in coronavirus cases in the southeastern cities of Gaziantep and Diyarbakir as well as some places on the Black Sea coast. He also said that the caseload in Ankara has not decreased.

Fearing possible negative effects on the already troubled economy, the country has been imposing short weekend and holiday curfews, instead of total lockdowns. It has also banned people above the age of 65 and minors from leaving home apart from certain days of the week. Those restrictions remain in place.

Turkey plans to resume international flights with 40 countries in June, starting on June 10 with flights to and from Bahrain, Bulgaria, Qatar, Greece and the self-declared state in the north of Cyprus that is only recognized by Turkey.

On Friday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported the country’s lowest day-to-day increase in the number of COVID-19 fatalities since late March. According to data he posted on Twitter, there were 18 new deaths in 24 hours, bringing the total in the nation to 4,648.

The number of daily confirmed cases remained under the 1,000 mark, despite an increase in the number of tests conducted, the data showed. The total of known coronavirus infections now stands at 168,340.

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