The new rules will concentrate on the resumption of in-person education next month. Teachers and staff at grade schools, academics and university students in higher learning will be asked to regularly undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests if they are not vaccinated. Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said unvaccinated people would be required to undergo PCR tests at least twice a week after schools are opened on Sept. 6.
Erdoğan also announced mandatory tests for people attending mass events in theaters, cinemas and concert halls and for those taking intercity bus travel and flights. It was unclear whether these tests will be exclusive to the unvaccinated.
Turkey lifted most COVID-19-related restrictions on July 1, including curfews, after the number of cases significantly dropped following a strict lockdown. At the same time, it opened up its vaccination program to more people and currently all people aged 15 and above are eligible for jabs.
Although mandatory masks and social distancing rules remain in place, the country has seen a surge in the number of daily cases recently, which is tied to higher mobility after the end of restrictions, and experts say there is a false perception of “safety” among people who ditch masks after the start of “normalization process.”
Authorities repeatedly said they did not reconsider reimposing restrictions but expressed determination to reach out to more people in the vaccination program. So far, more than 87.2 million doses have been administered, with 34.4 million people receiving both doses of Sinovac or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Still, vaccine hesitancy prevailing in the public is blamed for the existence of some 18 million people who did not get their jabs.
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