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Coronavirus: Turkey imposes curfew on youth, shuts borders of 31 cities

Residents will also be required to wear masks at markets, as Turkish president announces new measures to slow spread of Covid-19
Empty square of iconic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on 1 April after Turkish officials urged citizens to stay home and respect social distancing rules (AFP/File photo)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed a partial curfew on citizens under the age of 20 on Friday as part of a series of measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Erdogan announced that all residents would be required to wear face masks before entering marketplaces, as he also shut down the borders of 31 cities, including Istanbul, for all vehicles, excluding transit passage and essential supplies.

All public gatherings - even those held outdoors - have been banned, and only essential trips outside of the home for the purchase of food or medicine are allowed, he said. 

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The new restrictions take effect at midnight on Friday.

"We will impose administrative and criminal fines against those who insist on acting in violation of these measures," Erdogan said during his address to the nation. 

A curfew was already in place for those over the age of 65, who are deemed most vulnerable to the coronavirus. But because many youths were not adhering to stay-at-home orders, the government extended that curfew to those under the age of 20 as well. 

"Our aim isn't to torture our citizens, but to secure their health and health of those they are in contact with," Erdogan said. 

"I trust my people. This isn't an empty word. We see this trust in every step we take."

The new measures are an extension of restrictions announced last week, when Turkey cancelled all international flights and imposed a travel ban on major cities. 

Death toll rises

On Friday, the Turkish government said it had recorded 2,786 new cases, bringing the country's total number to 20,921 - a few thousand people more than the World Health Organization's Thursday tally. At least 484 people have recovered.

There were at least 69 new fatalities, bringing the death toll up to 425 - more than quadruple that of last Friday.

Erdogan said the country had completed 16,160 tests during the last 24 hours, bringing its total number of completed tests to 141,716.

Amid a shortage of testing, it has been difficult for many countries to accurately report the numbers of those infected.