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Turkey bans parties at ski resorts after COVID curfew backlash

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ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey has banned music and parties at ski resorts after footage of crowded party scenes provoked anger in a country which has endured two months of strict night-time and weekend curfews to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Ski resorts have been exempt from some of the regulations, which include a total lockdown at the weekend, meaning skiers have been able to enjoy the slopes while most of the population has been stuck indoors.

Videos circulating on social media this week stirred angry headlines, while the main opposition party accused the government of letting the rich party while small businesses and ordinary people suffer.

One video, purportedly filmed at Uludag resort south of Istanbul, showed maskless people dancing in a partly covered outdoor area. On Tuesday the local governor’s office shut down one hotel in Uludag for 10 days, fining the hotel management and 10 others for violating pandemic rules.

“Dancing with corona,” was broadcaster HaberTurk’s verdict. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, said it was wrong to allow any large gathering.

“If you can afford to go skiing you can have as much fun as you want, while the poor man’s shop is closed. How is this fair?” he said in parliament.

With schools on mid-term break, the premises in the area were almost full to capacity, hotel managers told Reuters. Although the majority of the guests were local tourists, some took a long trip to reach to Turkey’s largest winter sports centre.

Turkey’s interior ministry said activities at ski resorts which breach social distancing and face mask rules seriously risked public health. It said the ban on music and parties would apply all weekend.

Turkey has recorded more than 25,000 deaths from COVID-19. A rise in cases over the past months led the government to introduce weekday curfews and weekend lockdowns since December.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans and Peter Graff

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