Outdoor mask, social distancing mandate may be scrapped in March

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ISTANBUL

Turkish officials are considering scrapping face mask-wearing and social distancing obligations from March as they expect the pandemic situation to improve by then.

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If plans go ahead, people won’t have to wear their masks or follow social distancing rules in parks and streets. The new regulation also applies to outdoor restaurants.

Officials understand that the mask requirement is currently in place for these venues, but in reality it is not being enforced.

However, unlike outdoors, face masks are still mandatory on public transport, planes, trains, shopping malls, theaters and cinemas.

Afşin Kayıpmaz, a member of the Ministry of Health’s Science Committee, said recently that Turkey‘s pandemic situation appears to have stabilized after a sharp surge in daily cases due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca was also optimistic in his recent comments, suggesting that infections will fall significantly in the coming weeks.

But officials also argue that while some rules could be lifted, people over 65 and those with chronic illnesses still need to be closely monitored as they still face risks from the pandemic.

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There are 9 million citizens in the country who are over the age of 65 and only 4 million of them are vaccinated, according to officials. As part of efforts to encourage this group, health care workers should strive to convince the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, officials suggested.

To date, Turkey has administered more than 145 million doses of the vaccine against the coronavirus, with nearly 53 million people being double stung. Around 27 million people have received a booster shot and more than 57 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

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