ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey is experiencing the second peak of its novel coronavirus outbreak, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday, while the government announced new restrictions on weddings and other social gatherings as daily cases and deaths rise rapidly.
Fatalities have jumped to their highest since mid-May, when lockdowns were in place, and new cases have risen to mid-June levels, at almost 1,600. Turkey mostly reopened the economy and lifted weekend and age-specific lockdowns in early June.
The number of new cases rose by 1,596 to 273,301 in the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data, while the death toll from the virus rose by 45 to 6,462 on Wednesday.
Koca told a press conference after meeting his coronavirus science team that the capital Ankara had seen the most rapid rise in cases lately, producing double the numbers of Istanbul, previously the outbreak’s epicenter in Turkey.
“We are going through the second peak of the first wave of coronavirus. The carelessness at weddings and religious holidays has bought us to this point,” Koca said, but added lockdowns to curb the outbreak were not on the government’s agenda for now.
Following Koca’s remarks, the government announced new restrictions on weddings, limiting their duration to an hour, banning all food and drinks. It also banned the attendance of senior citizens and children to such gatherings.
“The virus is spreading to more people each day. Our test numbers are rising every day, our new patient numbers are not falling,” Koca said, adding 29,865 health workers were infected, with 52 deaths.
Doctors and medical groups have said some hospitals were at capacity. At the weekend, the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara accused the government of playing down the scale of the pandemic, citing local information.
The Turkish Medics Association said last month that based on antibody tests, there are likely some 10 times more active coronavirus patients than suggested by the official tally.
Koca stood by the accuracy of official tallies and urged people to be more cautious.
(Graphic: Turkey Daily COVID-19 deaths - )
(Graphic: Turkey Daily COVID-19 cases - )
Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Editing by William Maclean and Grant McCool
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