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Turkey relaxes mask mandate amid drop in COVID cases

ANKARA, TURKEY (AP) – Turkey relaxed its mask mandate on Wednesday, allowing people to ditch them in open-air spaces and in places with sufficient ventilation and where social distancing can be maintained.

In a news conference following a meeting of the country’s COVID-19 advisory council, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said people would be required to continue wearing masks in planes, buses, theatres, cinemas, hospitals and classrooms.

In other steps, Turkey will no longer close down classes where two or more students have tested positive for the virus, the minister said.

The country is also scrapping the use of codes assigned to citizens that allowed authorities to track those who have been in contact with infected people, Koca told reporters.

Meanwhile, only those displaying symptoms would be tested, he said.

The easing of the mask mandate and other restrictions comes amid a drop in officially recorded COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations, although some physicians have warned that cases in Turkey are still high and not enough people have been fully vaccinated.

Women chat while sitting next to a stray dog in Ankara, Turkey. PHOTO: AP

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