Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday refused to accept the resignation of his interior minister over an abrupt nationwide lockdown that triggered a spate of panic-buying.
Suleyman Soylu came in for fierce criticism after the 48-hour shutdown to counter the spread of the coronavirus was announced on Friday night with just two hours’ notice. The declaration sent thousands flocking to markets and bakeries in defiance of social distancing rules.
Roads in Istanbul and Ankara were also packed, with long queues forming outside off-licences, grocery stores and banks. Reacting to the chaotic scenes on Friday, Soylu said the lockdown had been on the “instructions” of the president.
On Sunday the powerful 50-year-old interior minister accepted “entire responsibility for the implementation of this measure”, which he said had been carried out “in good faith”. Erdogan however refused to accept Soylu’s resignation. “He is going to continue to carry out his functions,” he added.
Soylu took up the interior ministry portfolio in August 2016, a month after a bloody failed coup attempt against Erdogan. The government had come under harsh criticism from the opposition and on social media for the chaotic implementation of the lockdown, accusing the authorities of endangering the lives of thousands of people.
Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition party, who had previously called for a lockdown, was also critical of the short notice and complained of not being informed in advance. After the initial chaos, the shutdown, which ended at midnight (2100 GMT) on Sunday, was generally respected.
Turkey has nearly 57,000 COVID-19 infections and around 1,200 have died, according to the latest health ministry figures.
Source: Agence France Presse