Coronavirus Updates: Turkey Rejects Resignation of Minister Who Led Botched Lockdown


Erdogan rejected the resignation of the minister who oversaw Turkey’s rushed lockdown.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declined on Sunday to accept the resignation of Turkey’s interior minister, who offered it after taking responsibility for an abruptly announced curfew over the weekend that set off panic buying.

The minister, Sulyeman Soylu, announced his resignation late Sunday on Twitter, saying that he was responsible for implementing the lockdown. Within an hour, the president’s director of communications announced that Mr. Erdogan had refused to accept his resignation.

Mr. Soylu is one of the most powerful ministers of Mr. Erdogan’s cabinet, and his attempted resignation, following the removal of another minister two weeks ago, is an indication of the political fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Confirmed cases have risen to more than 56,000 in Turkey’s population of 80 million, and deaths are at 1,198.

The lockdown for 31 provinces was announced just two hours before it went into force at midnight on Friday, sending thousands of citizens rushing to late-night stores to buy provisions, undoing the government’s efforts to encourage social distancing.

At the time, Mr. Soylu said the lockdown was ordered by the president, but on Sunday, he said, that the responsibility for “implementing the weekend curfew decision, which was aimed at preventing the epidemic, belongs entirely to me.”

Turkey had seemed to be controlling the spread of the virus better than some European nations, and Mr. Erdogan introduced gradual restrictions while keeping some businesses working. The country was suffering double-digit unemployment and inflation even before the pandemic began.

Mr. Erdogan has sought to reassure citizens that the government will manage the health and financial fallout of the pandemic, but complaints are rising that a government compensation plan is inadequate. Many casual laborers are without income, and thousands of workers are being laid off.

“It’s hard to find words to express my debt,” he said, looking a bit wan but speaking with his usual vigor.

He thanked Britons for adhering to social distancing measures and said they were helping to slow the spread of the virus.

Mr. Johnson, who spent three nights in intensive care at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, will convalesce at Chequers, the prime minister’s country house, the government said in a statement. But he will soon be able to sign off on major decisions, including when to ease the country’s lockdown.

His release came a day after Queen Elizabeth II released a recorded Easter message in which she said that the holiday was a time of “light overcoming darkness.”

“We know that coronavirus will not overcome us,” the queen said. “As dark as death can be, particularly for those suffering with grief, light and life are greater. May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future.”

The total number of confirmed cases in the country is nearly 79,000, and the virus has also emerged in the country’s prisons.

Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall, Mark Landler, Ronen Bergman, Niraj Chokshi, Clifford Krauss and Ruth Maclean.





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