RIZE, Turkey

Tea producers in Turkey have begun making their way to the country’s northeastern Rize province to collect this year’s harvest since they have been exempt from far-reaching lockdown measures against the novel coronavirus.

In a bid to curb the spread of the outbreak, Turkish authorities had introduced a travel-ban across major provinces, making an exception for tea growers who must return to their fields to harvest their leaves and buds on time.

Farmers signed documents that they would comply with the latest regulations set by the government against COVID-19 and were subjected to health checks by medical professionals upon their arrival in the Black Sea coastal province.

Tea producer Servet Murzoglu said bus-fulls of his fellow growers followed pandemic measures, such as mask-wearing, and that they would complete their quarantine period at home.

“God willing, we’ll pull through this pandemic,” said Murzoglu, who traveled to Rize along with his family.

Turkey’s General Directorate of Tea Enterprises (Caykur) said in a written statement that growers would also be exempt from a stay-home order for the upcoming Ramadan (Eid) Festival.

Turkey has so far announced over 151,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and almost 113,000 patients have been discharged from hospitals upon full recovery.

The death toll stands at 4,199 whereas a total of 822 people are treated in the intense care unit.

* Writing by Ali Murat Alhas

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