ANKARA – Turkey's parks filled with the sound of children Wednesday as the government allowed people ages 14 and under to leave home for the first time in 40 days.
As the Turkish government continues to loosen some of its coronavirus restrictions, the country's youngest residents may now venture out for four hours a day between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. People in the 15- 20 age group will be able to leave homes for a few hours a day starting Friday.
In the capital of Ankara, young children wearing masks took turns on the slides and swings at Kugulu Park. An adjacent street teemed with pedestrians, and police urged the public to abide by social distancing practices.
“The weather is beautiful. This was a great opportunity because we were so bored at home,” said Zeyda Ozdemir, who brought her 8-year-old daughter, Zeynep, to the park.
She added, however, that she felt “a little uneasy” because the park was more crowded than she had hoped it would be.
In the city's Birlik Mahallesi neighborhood, two children were seen riding scooters up and down a street while a voice from a loudspeaker on the top of the minaret of a nearby mosque called on the public not to be “fooled by the arrival of spring and good weather.”
“The danger of infection is not over yet,” the announcement said.
The Turkish government set out a “normalization plan” as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases dropped, but warned of tougher measures if infections rise again.
Senior citizens were briefly allowed out for the first time in seven weeks on Sunday. Malls, hairdressers, barber shops and hair salons were allowed to reopen Monday.
Meanwhile, a lawyer told The Associated Press that he has filed a lawsuit against China on behalf of a private company that is seeking compensation for financial losses suffered because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Lawyer Melih Akkurt said the company was forced to suspend operations during lockdowns. It is the first commercial lawsuit in Turkey against China, where the coronavirus pandemic began, Akkurt said.
The lawyer wouldn't name the company, saying it wanted to remain anonymous. Other companies were preparing to file similar lawsuits, he said.
The lawsuit accuses China of among other things, failing to provide timely and accurate data to the World Health Organization, of concealing information on the virus’ infectiousness, of silencing doctors and not preventing its spread.
“My client believes there was intent rather than negligence by China,” Akkurt said.
China rejects accusations of a cover-up or of not responding to the outbreak in a timely manner.
Also Wednesday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the country is considering testing visitors from abroad as part of plans to open the tourism season in June. Koca said the government is thinking about screening people upon arrival in Turkey with the more sensitive molecular tests rather than with rapid-testing methods.
“Concerning the arrivals from abroad, our inclination is to lead this early period in a controlled manner by conducting as many tests as possible,” the minister said.
The government previously suggested Turkey's tourist season would start for domestic travelers in June, followed by international visitors later in the season. The government also plans to introduce a certification program, under which hotels and other establishments that adhere to a set of regulations to prevent infections would be certified as safe.
Turkey has recorded more than 140,000 cases of the virus and nearly 4,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to a tally by John Hopkins University. The true number is likely much higher because many people haven't been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without displaying symptoms.