Coronavirus: Turkey’s trains to begin running next week, airline to avoid staff cuts

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Turkey said on Saturday some intercity trains will re-start running next week as it gradually eases a partial coronavirus lockdown, while the chairman of Turkish Airlines said it was likely there would be no staff cuts for two years.

Turkey has imposed weekend stay-at-home orders, closed restaurants and schools, mostly sealed its borders and halted some travel between large cities to curb the spread of the virus.

The government has begun rolling back some restrictions and said it aims to reopen the economy heading into June, according to Reuters.

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From 28 May, trains will be able to make 16 trips daily on routes including Istanbul, Ankara, Eskisehir and Konya, the Transport Ministry said. Passengers will be monitored for illness while travelling and those 20 years or younger and 65 or older cannot travel, it said.

In an interview with news website Haberturk, Ilker Ayci, chair of Turkish Airlines, said it aims to “protect employment” at least until the end of 2021. “Our job is to resist layoffs as much as we can,” he was quoted as saying.

The flagship airline has cancelled domestic flights to 4 June and international flights to 10 June.

Turkey has also initiated a “healthy tourism certificate” programme that aims to convince travellers that despite the global pandemic, the country’s beaches and historic treasures will be safe to visit later this year, with rigorous checks on airlines, local transport and hotels.

“The more transparent and detailed information we give, the more we will earn the confidence of tourists,” Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy told Reuters, setting out plans to open at least half of Turkey’s hotels this year.

Turkey ranks sixth globally in tourist arrivals and tourism accounts for about $35bn, or 12 percent of an economy now facing its second recession in two years. Figures released on Friday showed the pandemic slashed foreign arrivals by 99 percent last month.

MEE reported earlier this week that Turkey had made a currency swap deal with Qatar that will bolster Turkey’s depleted foreign currency reserves by as much as $10bn. Turkey’s net foreign exchange reserves have dropped to $26bn this year from $40bn.

Almost 4,300 people have died in Turkey from the new coronavirus. The country ranks ninth globally in confirmed Covid-19 cases with more than 154,000.

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