Turkish minister resigns over criticism of weekend lockdowns

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has resigned. He resigned late Sunday, taking responsibility for a poorly timed announcement of a weekend coronavirus curfew that prompted thousands of people to rush into the streets.

Soylu is one of the most senior figures in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Soylu said: “Responsibility for implementing the weekend curfew decision, which was aimed at preventing the epidemic, belongs entirely to me.”

The 48-hour lockdown of 31 cities was announced just two hours before it took effect on Friday night. Thousands of people ran out to stores to stock up on goods, many without wearing mandatory face masks.
Images of large, closely-bunched crowds sparked criticism of the government’s planning for the lockdowns.

Turkey introduced a lockdown over the weekend that took many by surprise, since the country had previously adopted a more relaxed approach to fighting the coronavirus than its neighbors in Europe and the Mideast.

The sudden announcement of a 48-hour curfew in 31 cities, including Ankara and Istanbul, on Friday evening led to crowds rushing to grocery stores to panic-buy provisions. Many ignored social distancing rules and were not wearing mandatory masks.

Prior to the declaration, a curfew had been imposed on those under 20 and over 65, crucially exempting most of the workforce as Turkey sought to keep its beleaguered economy on track. It’s still not clear what will happen Monday, when the short-term lockdown is set to expire.

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