A total of 21,495 people were fined by Turkish authorities for violating a pandemic curfew in a week, while members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) attending party conventions in jam-packed indoor sports arenas are exempted from charges.
According to a statement by the Interior Ministry, 21,495 people were fined during the week of March 22-29 for failing to comply with the COVID-19 curfew.
On March 1, the Turkish government announced a four-tier system of local COVID-19 restrictions. According to the plan curfews from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. remain in effect nationwide every day of the week, while for regions in the “high” and “very high” risk category, Sunday curfews remain in effect starting from 9 p.m. on Saturday through 5 a.m. Monday.
The AKP, however, held its 7th Ordinary Grand Congress, packing people shoulder to shoulder, in Ankara on March 24, in disregard of rules aimed at controlling the coronavirus pandemic as the country’s daily cases surpass 26,000.
The AKP convention sparked anger from people on social media last week. Twitter was abuzz with outraged reactions to the large gathering as photos of buses carrying AKP supporters from various provinces to Ankara began to circulate on social media, revealing that large numbers of people were violating social distancing rules, with most of them not even wearing masks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also drew criticism last month when he bragged about how large the crowd was while giving a speech at an AKP meeting in Rize.
Data released by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca following AKP conventions in various provinces in the last months showed that the number of coronavirus cases in Turkey increased significantly in provinces where the AKP held indoor rallies in defiance of the minister’s warnings to avoid indoor gatherings.
On Tuesday the minister warned people, this time about the country’s highest daily number of coronavirus cases in 2021, saying: “We must watch out. We detected 26,182 new cases today. In addition, we registered 138 deaths. The [increasing] number of new cases and deaths threatens our lives, our health and the freedom we worked so hard to regain.”
Early in March, Turkey reopened most restaurants for indoor dining and allowed more students to return to school as it rolled back tough coronavirus restrictions.