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Turkish tourism video taken down after online outcry

Last Updated May 14, 2021 at 6:38 am EDT

ISTANBUL (AP) — A video promoting tourism in Turkey amid the pandemic has caused an uproar on social media for showing tourism employees wearing masks that read “Enjoy, I’m vaccinated.”

The video was published on the social media accounts of official travel guide Go Turkiye Thursday and was taken down later that day. It aimed to promote travel to Turkey as a “safe haven” for foreigners and showed unmasked tourists being served in hotels on the Turkish coast.

Opposition parties and critics on social media said the promotional video was an insult to Turks. A hashtag calling for the tourism minister to resign was trending on Twitter Friday.

Tourism workers have been prioritized to receive their vaccinations and the country’s foreign minister promised “we will vaccinate all people tourists may see by the end of May.”

Turkey is in the final days of a full lockdown and the government has ordered people to stay home and businesses to close amid a huge surge in infections. But millions of workers are exempt and so are foreign tourists.

The restrictions, which began in late April, have brought daily infection numbers down from above 62,000 to around 11,500. Turkey’s president said the aim is to lower cases to below 5,000 in order for tourism to begin.

Turkey is courting international tourists during an economic downturn and needs the foreign currencies tourism brings to help industry and the economy. International tourists have been enjoying an empty Istanbul, Turkey’s famous beaches and other sites all to themselves, while Turks have been told to stay home and face expensive fines if they break rules.

Russia, however, has suspended flights to Turkey until June 1 and the U.K. and France recently warned their citizens not to travel to Turkey, introducing mandatory quarantines for travelers arriving from Turkey.

Starting May 17, Turkey is dropping the requirement to present a negative PCR test when arriving in Turkey for passengers arriving from Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Israel, Japan, United Kingdom, Latvia, Luxembourg, Ukraine and Estonia. Turkey requires mandatory quarantines for people who visited India, Brazil or South Africa, but other travelers can begin their vacations straightaway.

The Associated Press