Turkey announces “full lockdown” from April 29 to curb COVID spread

ANKARA (Reuters) -Turks will be required to stay mostly at home under a nationwide “full lockdown” starting on Thursday and lasting until May 17 to curb a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths, President Tayyip Erdogan announced on Monday.

Turkey logged 37,312 new COVID-19 infections and 353 deaths in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed, sharply down from mid-April but still the world’s fourth highest number of cases and the worst on a per-capita basis among major nations.

Announcing the new measures after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan said all intercity travel would require official approval, all schools would shut and move lessons online, and a strict capacity limit would be imposed for users of public transport.

Turks will have to stay indoors except for essential shopping trips and urgent medical treatment. Certain groups including emergency service workers and employees in the food and manufacturing sectors will be exempt.

The new restrictions take effect from 1600 GMT on Thursday and will end at 0200 GMT on May 17.

“At a time when Europe is entering a phase of reopening, we need to rapidly cut our case numbers to below 5,000 not to be left behind. Otherwise we will inevitably face heavy costs in every area, from tourism to trade and education,” Erdogan said.

The measures will be implemented “in the strictest manner to ensure they yield the results we seek”, he said.

Two weeks ago Turkey announced a night-time curfew from 7 p.m. till 5 a.m. on weekdays, as well as full weekend lockdowns, after cases surged to record levels, but the measures proved insufficient to bring the pandemic under control.

Total daily cases in Turkey peaked above 63,000 on April 16 before dropping sharply to below 39,000 on Sunday.

The total death toll in Turkey, a nation of 84 million, stood at 38,711 on Monday, the health ministry data showed.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Gareth Jones)

COVID-19 cases in Canada’s most populous province could treble: CBC

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Modeling shows that cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, could treble by the end of May unless tough restrictions are imposed, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said on Friday.

Some hospitals say they are already close to breaking point as a rapidly worsening third wave rips through the province, and the head of its main nurses organization has called for a full lockdown including a curfew.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who has so far resisted such wide-ranging steps but is under increasing criticism for how his government has handled the epidemic, is due to make an announcement at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time (1830 GMT).

Ontario, which accounts for 38% of Canada’s population, announced a record 4,736 daily cases on Thursday and the CBC cited sources as saying this could rocket to 18,000 by end-May if current trends continued.

Canada’s response to the pandemic has been complicated by the division of responsibilities between the 10 provinces and Ottawa, which helps fund healthcare but is not in charge of medical services. The federal government is buying vaccines but the provinces are responsible for inoculations.

Ottawa said Moderna – blaming supply problems – would only be delivering 650,000 doses by the end of April as opposed to 1.2 million. It also said one to two million doses of the 12.3 million doses scheduled for delivery in the second quarter may be delayed until the third quarter.

“We are disappointed, and while we understand the challenges facing suppliers … our government will continue to press Moderna to fulfill its commitments,” Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said in a statement.

Separately, a group representing doctors urged authorities to take “extraordinary measures.”

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) said the 10 provinces should band together to pool resources and allocate them where they were most needed.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and John Stonestreet)

Greek premier orders full lockdown in Athens after surge in coronavirus cases

By Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday announced a full lockdown in the capital Athens and the surrounding region to curb a resurgence in coronavirus cases and ease pressure on badly stretched health services.

The new restrictions in the Athens region, where half of Greece’s population of 11 million lives, include closing non-essential shops and schools from Feb. 11 until the end of the month, Mitsotakis said in a televised address.

“I will not hide: In the next two months, restrictions may be imposed and lifted depending on the level of alarm,” he said after chairing an emergency meeting with ministers and health experts. “But this is also the last mile towards freedom.”

Authorities registered 1,526 infections on Tuesday, more than double the number recorded a day earlier – half of them in the wider Athens area, with COVID-19 related deaths reaching 6,017 since the coronavirus was first detected.

Greece, which has fared relatively better than others in Europe during the pandemic, was forced to impose a partial lockdown in November after infections began climbing, threatening to overwhelm a health system badly weakened by a decade-long financial crisis.

It has since eased restrictions on the retail sector to help struggling businesses. But Mitsotakis said a fresh rise in hospital admissions in Athens and the detection of more contagious variants of the coronavirus have alarmed authorities.

Greece has administered more than 400,000 inoculations so far with the Pfizer/BionTech and Moderna vaccines and is due to start vaccinating people aged 60-64 with the AstraZeneca shots on Feb. 15.

Mitsotakis said vaccinations will soon reach 500,000 and the most vulnerable will be protected by the end of spring, when the government hopes the vital tourism sector will be able to open.

“We will be much better from April,” he said.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou; Editing by Alison Williams and Grant McCool)