Turkey marks its 100th year of parliament amid coronavirus

International

Local residents, in their flat due to the coronavirus, watch celebrations ahead of the National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, in Istanbul, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Turkey will mark Thursday, April 23, 2020 the 100th anniversary of the foundation of its parliament, as the nation is in a 4-day curfew declared by Turkey’s government in an attempt to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/ Emrah Gurel)

ISTANBUL (AP) — A Turkish Airlines plane flew over the country Thursday making the shape of the country’s flag with its flight path to mark centennial celebrations for the founding of parliament.

The celebrations for Turkey’s National Sovereignty and Children’s Day were changed because of the coronavirus pandemic, with authorities replacing parades and school ceremonies with observances in line with social distancing efforts.

Flight tracking website Flightradar24 showed a crescent and a star over Turkey outlined by a Boeing 777. Turkish television stations showed children with flags on their neighborhood streets. The government has also asked Turkish citizens to sing the national anthem in the evening. Officials wearing masks visited the mausoleum of Turkey’s founder and held a special session in parliament.

The latest health ministry figures show 2,491 people have died from the coronavirus in Turkey and there are 101,790 confirmed cases. The country ranks seventh in the world in the number of confirmed infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Experts say the true toll of the pandemic around the world is much higher than the Johns Hopkins tally, due in part to limited testing and difficulties in counting the dead in the midst of a crisis.

To stem the spread of COVID-19, Turkey closed schools, restaurants and other public spaces, barred people under 20 or over 65 from leaving their homes and instituted weekend lockdowns for all, expanding that to four days this week.

In past years, the national sovereignty day was marked with parades, celebrations and schoolchildren acting out ministerial roles with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, called for an election amid the war of independence after the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I. On April 23, 1920, the Grand National Assembly held its first session.

A referendum in 2017 changed Turkey’s system of governance from parliamentary to an executive presidency, giving Erdogan wider powers.

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