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Turkey Imposes 48-Hour Coronavirus Curfew In Major Cities With Little Warning

People across Turkey were sent sprinting to convenience stores and markets late Friday night, when authorities announced a widespread 48-hour curfew to combat the spread of the coronavirus just hours before it took effect at midnight.

The lockdown, which applies to all residents and businesses except those carrying out essential services, covers 31 of the country's 81 provinces and its major population centers, including Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

Fahrettin Altun, the nation's communications director, asked for residents to comply with the last-minute directive "without panicking" and to "avoid behavior that will lead to a decrease in social distance."

Social media channels, however, soon were awash with images of consumers doing just the opposite, crowding store entrances and desperately trying to stock up on supplies before the curfew took hold. The Interior Ministry clarified that bakeries, hospitals, pharmacies and producers of medical supplies could continue to operate, but the caveat did little to dissuade people from packing their bags to the brim.

As of Saturday morning ET, Turkey had reported more than 47,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and upward of 1,000 deaths linked to the respiratory disease it can cause, COVID-19, according data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On Friday, Turkish authorities announced that at least 98 patients had died in a 24-hour span.

Turkey's rising tallies make it one of the hardest-hit countries in the Middle East, second only to Iran in confirmed cases and fatalities linked to the virus. The global death toll also marked a dark milestone Friday, surpassing 100,000 fatalities worldwide — and already, less than 24 hours later, that sum stands north of 103,700.

In Turkey, the move to implement a stricter curfew — it had previously only applied to those over the age of 65 and under 20 — was welcomed, in general, by critics upset with a perceived lack of serious response by authorities.

But some local leaders took issue with the suddenness of the curfew announcement. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said that his government, at least, received no advance warning of the curfew before the announcement came down: "Any decision made without cooperation only creates confusion and panic," the mayor said Friday.

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Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.

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