Turkish interior minister resigns over failed coronavirus lockdown

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejects resignation of interior minister.

Elad Benari ,

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday rejected the resignation of his country’s interior minister, who said he was stepping down in the wake of a short-notice coronavirus lockdown which sent people rushing to shops to stock up on supplies, Reuters reported.

Authorities declared the 48-hour curfew in dozens of cities shortly before 10:00 p.m. on Friday, giving millions of people just two hours' notice and prompting a wave of desperate last-minute buying.

"The incidents that occurred ahead of the implementation of the curfew were not befitting the perfect management of the outbreak," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in statement on Twitter in which he said he was resigning.

Erdogan, however, judged it was not "appropriate" for Soylu to resign and said that the minister would continue in his position.

Soylu's statement came just before the end of the weekend lockdown in 31 provinces across Turkey, including its largest city and commercial hub Istanbul, home to 16 million residents.

The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said the way the lockdown was announced had undermined efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Turkey, which has registered 50,000 cases.

More than 1,100 people have died of COVID-19 in Turkey, many of them in Istanbul where CHP mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said municipal authorities had no advance warning of the move. "Decisions taken without common sense and cooperation will only cause confusion and panic," he said.

The weekend lockdown came on top of existing curbs announced last week, under which people under the age of 20 and over 65 have been told to stay at home.

Ankara has also halted all flights, restricted domestic travel, closed schools, bars and cafes, and suspended mass prayers. But people have still been going to work to sustain economic activity.

As of Sunday, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey has risen to 56,956 with 4,789 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that the death toll from the novel coronavirus reached 1,198, with 97 new deaths.

A total of 3,446 patients have recovered, and 1,665 patients are still being treated at intensive care units, and 978 intubated, he added.