Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has announced that his ministry has gone into the “Emergency” management mode, which requires a 24/7 state of alarm, due to the COVID-19 outbreak as the toll in Turkey increased to a total of 649 on April 6. Answering to YetkinReport’s questions, the Minister said that the measures taken have started to yield results, but that new set of restrictions may be imposed against the possibility of the “second wave” of Covid-19 coming. Expressing that Metropolitan centers have generally complied with the rules, Soylu underlined that the problems remained in the peripheries of big cities. “Currently, nearly half of Turkey’s population, close to 40 million people are already in their houses, either due to age limits or illness. We must push on with these strict measures,” said the minister. As an example of the new measures, Soylu stated that the main street in Izmir’s Karşıyaka district was closed, including pedestrian walks, and that a building in Istanbul’s Bağcılar district was completely quarantined. The Minister of Interior also told YetkinReport about the results of his private research to understand the situation in the cities:
-[Upon the question about how the ministry checks whether the rules are followed] “We’ve been making measurements from the field since the beginning of the outbreak. In addition to these measurements, we also conduct special investigations, by phone calls and other methods. We look into three basic points here. Firstly, which sources do the citizens listen to the most. We see here that the information released by the Ministry of Health and the government are at the top of the list. The Science Committee members come in second place. TV and newspaper commentators come far behind. Secondly, how often do the citizens leave their homes? Who are the age groups, social groups, etc. who are most likely to go out? We evaluate this data so it can be useful when implementing other measures. Finally, we track the precautions that the citizens take against the coronavirus. Here, we are pleased to see that citizens value personal hygiene and are also goo at self-isolating. There are improvements in social isolation practices but there’s still some way to go.”
Lower inter-city and inner-city traffic
-[Upon the question about the ban on inter-city travels and the latest decision on inner-city travel, which is still allowed.] “Our new practice within the framework of the emergency mode we’re in, is the control, measurement, and restrictions on inner-city traffic. We see that inner-city traffic, which had decreased by 15% on March 2 when the first measures were introduced has decreased by 99.9% by the measurements made last Saturday-Sunday (April 4-5). This data is important. The number of passengers in measurable inner-city traffic, which is 10 million 89 thousand in 18 big cities, has decreased by 95% the weekend, reaching the level of 612 thousand passengers. After out President [Tayyip Erdoğan] announced the restrictions last Friday (April 3), the life outside of the home has dropped by 85-90 percent overnight in big city centers. We aim to keep this traffic at the level of 10-15 % during the week; this is necessary so that the supply chain isn’t broken for compulsory services such as health, safety, and sanitation.
Karşıyaka in İzmir, Bağcılar in İstanbul
-[‘Upon the question: I know about Ankara and observed that the people here comply. But there is news that the problems continue in certain cities. What is being done to counter this?] “Within the framework of the Emergency Management Mode, our colleagues at the Security Emergency Center monitor city squares, main streets of the big cities and immediately intervene when they see large groupings. We tell them that they need to leave, fine them if need be, but never allow it. People generally comply with the rules at high rates in the centers of large and medium-sized cities; people went into their homes. However, we do take special measures in exceptional cases. For example, we’ve closed the main street at Karşıyaka, Izmir, including for pedestrian walks. The problem is in the cities’ peripheries, the outskirts; now we are focusing on them. We have started to get results from quarantining practices in certain districts, neighborhoods, villages, and hamlets. But we also implement quarantines in city centers if need be. For example, we have quarantined a whole building in Istanbul’s Bağcılar district. We have closed down 212 thousand workplaces since the beginning of this process. These were mandatory to reduce social contact and increase social distance.”
Temporary curfew requests
-[Upon the question about scientists and opposition leaders’ temporary curfew requests and whether the government’s considering it] “Currently, the curfew does not need to be extended to the general population. 25 million people are under 20 years old, and 8 million are over the age of 65. When we add the people who cannot leave their houses due to illness, that makes nearly 40 million who are already virtually under a curfew. There are also millions of people who chose not to leave the house unless they are compelled to protect themselves. If we can continue like this, there may be no need, but it is still clear which new restriction steps we will take if necessary. I’m not a doctor, but according to the information given to us, the second wave of the epidemic started in some countries. We may take some additional measures against the possibility of this second wave hitting Turkey.”
-[‘Upon the question about the government’s much-criticized lack of cooperation with municipalities and on whether the government is planning to cooperate.] “With the formation of Provincial Pandemic Boards, we started to work with local governments. Mayors are natural members of these boards, established in the provinces and districts under the presidency of governors and district governors. Since Pandemic Boards do not have decision-making powers, the decisions formed here are decided and then implemented by the Provincial Hygiene Boards. Local administrations and NGOs are also included in the Vefa Social Support groups. So far, 1 million 319 thousand citizens of the age of 65 have been served, be it for their pension, their food or their medicine. I don’t know whether there is such an example elsewhere in the world. But the danger is not over. We have to keep tight control. We must maintain our patience in staying home and keep being mindful of social isolation and personal hygiene.