President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced an end to the requirement for wearing protective masks at indoor venues, ending the most enduring ban related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, mask use will be in place in mass transit and hospitals, “until the number of daily cases drops below 1,000.”
His statement followed a meeting of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who delayed the meeting from early April to Wednesday, had revised the date again to Tuesday “not to postpone good news further.” Koca’s meetings with the board, which were weekly in the early days of the pandemic, have been a staple of daily life for millions glued to their screens every week to hear the latest update on the situation regarding the pandemic and restrictions. Erdoğan, who hosted Koca and the board at the Presidential Complex, said they would not convene again “without an emergency.”
The country had imposed the mandatory mask rule in the early days of the pandemic in 2020. After two years, it took the first step to loosen the mask mandate last month, limiting mask use only to indoor venues. The move had followed a considerable drop in the number of daily cases, thanks to mass vaccination and the prevalence of the omicron strain, less severe than earlier variants of the coronavirus.
The move follows similar actions by European countries, which lifted the mask mandate partially or entirely, and Erdoğan pointed out that those countries did so as the pandemic was “no longer a global threat.”
“I believe we reached the same stage,” he said.
The mandatory mask use for people at the age of 65 and above and those with chronic illnesses, however, will remain in place, Erdoğan said, citing the recommendation of the Advisory Board.