Dealing a further blow to Turkey’s beleaguered tourism industry, the UK on October 1 took the country off its travel corridor list, informing people arriving in the UK from Turkey after 04:00 hours British time on October 3 that they will have to quarantine for 14 days.
The move comes a day after an opposition MP in Turkey claimed the country’s daily number of new coronavirus (COVID-19) infections was running at 19 times the figure presented by officials. Murat Emir made the claim after gaining access to a screenshot of the Turkish health ministry’s official laboratory results portal, which is inaccessible to the public.
Responding to Emir’s claim, Turkish health minister Fahrettin Koca appeared to dig his ministry deeper into a hole at his weekly news conference when he stated that since July 29 the coronavirus infections count did not include asymptomatic positive cases. The Associated Press reported that he then ignored a question about the number of new positive coronavirus cases per day, a key indicator of where the outbreak is headed in any country. “We are talking about people with symptoms. We are giving this as the daily number of patients,” he told reporters.
The revelations led to a social media outcry, with people calling on the government to reveal the true spread of the coronavirus among the population of 83mn. The Turkish Medical Association (TTB), which for months has warned of government under-reporting of the virus figures, on October 1 said on Twitter: “You [the government] have not led a transparent process. You hid the truth. You did not prevent the pandemic from spreading.”
The Scottish Government said in an October 1 statement that it was "clear that case numbers in Turkey have been under-reported".
The BBC's transport correspondent Tom Burridge wrote: "If you look at the official data coming out of Turkey then it sits comfortably below the UK's benchmark for applying the quarantine of 20 cases for every 100,000 people. But revelations that the number of cases in Turkey has been under-reported has put the country onto the 'red' list."
Even though it has enjoyed the UK travel corridor status and other pluses such as Germany taking certain Turkish resort destinations off its travel warning list, Turkey’s tourism industry has had a wretched summer.
Turkey’s foreign tourist arrivals declined by 71% y/y to 1.8mn in holiday season peak month August, data released by the country’s tourism ministry earlier this week have shown.
The slump followed the 86% y/y decline in July and 96% y/y drop in June. In April and May, foreign tourist visits to Turkey collapsed 99.3% y/y.
Some 440,000 Russians visited Turkey in August, accounting for 24.2% of all international tourist visits. However, 1.1mn Russian tourists came to Turkey in August 2019, making for a stark comparison.
Turkey welcomed 261,000 holidaymakers from the UK in the month versus nearly 422,000 a year ago. Around 256,000 Ukrainians visited, up from 228,000 in August 2019. However, Turkey saw a sharp decline in the number of German tourists. The months saw only 170,000 German nationals vacationing in Turkey versus 713,000 in August 2019.
The tourism ministry also reported a 77% decline in foreign tourist arrivals in Turkey in the first eight months of the year to 7.3mn.