(Sept. 11, 2020) On September 8, 2020, Turkey’s Ministry of Interior Affairs (MIA) issued a circular to the governorates of all 81 provinces in the country ordering the implementation of new and extensive health measures in public spaces to counter the COVID-19 outbreak. This follows the apparent upward trend observed in the Ministry’s official numbers for COVID-19 positive cases and deaths for the month of August.
The new circular orders governorates to implement mandatory mask-wearing for all persons without exceptions in all locations besides residential premises. The mandate includes nonresidential outdoor locations. For the purposes of de-densification, passengers will not be allowed to stand in buses and other public transportation vehicles when proper social distancing measures cannot be implemented. In public rail-transit vehicles and buses that can be retro-fitted for de-densified sitting and standing, a limited number of passengers will be allowed to stand in accordance with the decisions of provincial public health assemblies. Standing areas in such public transports will be marked. Furthermore, the circular requires governorates to ban the playing of music (including live performances and broadcasting) after midnight in all public premises where food or drink is sold, such as restaurants, hotels, cafes, and all entertainment venues.
Provincial public health assemblies are committees established in each province in accordance with the Public Hygiene Law of 1930 and charged with helping the central authority in combating contagious diseases and epidemics and implementing relevant measures. (Art. 27.) The committees are authorized to limit access to public spaces in cases of outbreaks of contagious diseases. (Art. 72(1)(7).)
On September 9, 2020, the provincial public health assembly of Istanbul issued a decision banning passengers from standing in municipal buses and in private carriers operating on regular routes. The decision halves the standing and sitting capacity of rail transport vehicles, while allowing buses running on dedicated arterial bus lines traversing the metropolitan area (Metrobüs) to carry one-third of the seated and standing passengers normally allowed. The assembly also banned the broadcast or performance of music in public places after midnight, in accordance with the MIA’s September 8 circular.
Likewise on September 9, the MIA announced that comprehensive on-the-spot inspections for compliance with COVID-19-related public health measures were to take place nationwide on September 10 with the participation of the police, coast guard, and gendarmerie units, as well as of municipal constabularies and related public and private officers. A similar nationwide operation took place previously, on September 4, 2020.