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Turkish government is considering taking many normalization steps on the COVID-19 outbreak in June. Political normalization is another question. (Photo: Pixabay)

Although not all have been announced to the public yet, the normalization schedule for June on (and late May) the coronavirus measures are more or less clear. That is, of course, if no extraordinary developments follow.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca had said that before May 28 that the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic would still be at high risk of spreading. Among the loosened health and safety measures before this deadline was the decision to re-open shopping malls, which stirred up controversy. And, in fact, at the end of the first day of re-opening the malls on May 11, Minister Koca did complain that people rushing to the malls were not observing social distancing or other necessary protective measures.
The government envisages loosening the measures in some areas, especially tourism, as of the end of the Eid on May 28. Within this framework, hotels, motels, and guesthouses will start accepting customers under specific conditions. But some precautions like disinfecting rooms once guests check out and keeping it empty for a day have been discussed.
As of May 28, the government also envisages taking normalization steps in overseas tourism. The first step will likely be the permission of tourist boats commuting between Turkey and Aegean islands; between Greece and Turkey, and the lifting of quarantine precautions with Northern Cyprus. Likewise, this may be a turning point for the loosening of restrictions on wooden boats on the coasts, and on cargo ships coming from countries with no pandemic risk.

Hospitals, borders, mosques, hotels

There are plans to ease the coronavirus measures in June. That is, of course, if the risk of the virus’s spread doesn’t spike once more due to non-compliance of rules.
Below are the measures that the government plans to implement as of June 1.
– Reducing the number of pandemic hospitals and returning to normal patient admission procedures in hospitals that have gone back to normal.
– Ending the practice of shorter working hours in workplaces.
– Starting the face-to-face training of military officers and sergeants while following health and safety measures.
– Opening of libraries with special measures.
– Beginning non-contact visitations in prisons.
– Starting concerts with the conditions of having only 50% of the venue’s audience capacity present.
– Allowing notaries to work without liability to the shift system.
– Resumption of refugee re-admissions.
Mosques are expected to open on June 12, provided that mosque-goers adhere to social distancing rules. In the first stages, Friday prayers will not be observed in mosques but outside of them.
As President Tayyip Erdoğan had announced earlier, face-to-face education at universities will begin under special conditions on June 15. Border gates that were closed due to the coronavirus are set to open on June 15, too. However, if the conditions improve faster than expected, it’s possible authorities will open land borders with Greece and Bulgaria earlier; as early as June 1. The ban on museums, historical sites, promenades, and picnic areas is set to be lifted on June 15. On the same day, the ban on “places of recreation and entertainment” might also end; among these places are tea gardens, local community centers, and pools. However, the restriction on wedding halls, cinemas, and show centers will go on for a few more weeks.

What about political normalization?

These are the normalization steps for our post-outbreak daily lives, planned under the coordination of Vice President Fuat Oktay. Let’s hope that citizens will follow the rules and the epidemic, which has started to regress with the efforts of the Health Ministry and healthcare professionals, does not spike again and our lives can return to normal (or to the new normal, at least).
But we need political normalization as much as the normalization in our daily lives. Political polarization has not quelled, even at the apex of the COVID-19 crisis. We even witnessed President Erdoğan opening front against the municipalities won by then opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), in days Turkey needed solidarity the most. Similarly, some opposition spokespersons, including from the CHP, caused the public to doubt the efforts of the Ministry of Health and the healthcare professionals, just so the toll of the pandemic can go down as the failure of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
We see that this sort of behavior backfires. Erdoğan’s aggressive denigration of CHP municipalities has not affected popular support of the work these municipalities did. And despite the distrust pumped by irresponsible opposition spokespersons, trust in the Ministry of Health and healthcare professionals has remained higher than trust in politicians, including President Erdoğan.
Perhaps that’s why the President has acknowledged the municipalities for the first time in his May 11 speech, albeit in one small sentence. And for the first time, he hasn’t directly targeted the CHP. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s praise of the efforts of the Ministry of Health in his May 10 statement has probably played a part in this.
Is this enough? No. Political leaders should see that the current policy of constant tension has now tired the public, except for a handful of fanatics. It is now imperative to focus more on political normalization.