Turkey’s war on COVID is not going well at a time when the economy is also not performing well. TÜİK, the state-run statistic institute, announced on Aug. 31 that the economy shrank 9.9 percent in the second quarter of the year. The additional efforts to prevent a double-digit figure might surface when experts write on electricity consumption figures and employment losses.
As for the possibility of going to war with Greece… Sending troops to the island of Castellorizo (Meis) on tourist boats on Aug. 30 was yet another provocative act by Athens. The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a strong condemnation, drawing attention to the status of Meis as a demilitarized zone within the scope of the 1947 Paris Peace Agreement. Such a move by Athens should have angered Berlin and Brussels, the two countries that lent support to Turkey’s neighbor on Aug 28, the most.
At this point, the U.S. stance should be watched. Learning a lesson from misinterpreting Turkey’s intervention on Cyprus following a Greece-inspired coup in 1974 as a bluff, the U.S. stepped in to prevent a possible conflict between Turkey and Greece in 1996 during a dispute over the Aegean islets of Kardak/Imia. The U.S. is now sending a message to both Ankara and Athens that it will not allow a clash in the Mediterranean Sea, with its 6th Fleet holding a navy drill with Turkey one day after a joint drill.
Losses in war with COVID
Columnist Mehmet Yılmaz implied in an article at T24 that Ankara would be content with “even a one-hour clash with Greece, referring to President Tayyip Erdogan’s domestic political concerns. The same is true for Athens and Prime Minister Kriyakos Mitsotakis, but I think the U.S. would step in without even allowing such an incident. The EU long ago lost its power of sanctions on Turkey.
So my main attention nowadays s entirely on the fight against COVID. The picture in that field is getting worse with more losses. Although President Tayyip Erdogan says everything is under control in the fight against coronavirus Covid-19, both the Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca and the members of the state’s Science Advisory Board feel obliged to say that the outlook is alarming as figures show that although they are not being fully disclosed. The figures on Aug. 30 showed 42 deaths and 1482 new patients. The daily number of new patients seems to have reached 1,500 again. This is way above the early June forecast of “below 100” by the officials for mid-July. At the start of June, all restrictions were lifted with a sudden decision despite strong warnings by scientists.
No responsibility of the government?
However, now it is still uncertain whether and how the schools will open, the daily number of new patients is 15-fold of the official forecast
Is it only because of the insensitive citizens who do not wear a mask, those who use it improperly, or who do not care about social distance rules? Of course not. Is it because of the people rushing to weddings to pin gold or cash to new couples at a time when doctors, nurses, nursing staff, and laborants are fighting at the frontline of the war on COVID?
Scientists had defended a full 15-day curfew, such as China, instead of weekend curfews for a month. Then they insisted that those weekend curfews should not be removed suddenly. They failed to attract the government’s attention. At the beginning of the summer, the government opted for opening the shopping malls, hotels, and mosques, not schools. Did it work? No. Has it backfired? Yes. Has the tourism lobby been in vain as the disease has increased? Yes. Have the hospitals filled up again, with the doctors saying that “we’re exhausted”? Yes. Is President Erdoğan uncomfortable with this picture?
Physicians as officers in war on COVID
Although Erdoğan is uncomfortable with the outlook of the fight against COVID, he does not want to show it. Because recently he said the disease did not. No one wants the economy to halt but we cannot say “life goes on despite losses” as more and more people die or get ill. We still even do not know how many people were infected and died because of a mass prayer in Hagia Sophia after it was opened to prayer as a mosque again late July. We do not know how many people were infected when all restrictions were lifted during Eid al-Adha. We learn a part of the truth when holidaymakers return from Turkey to Germany and are tested “positive.”
Overlooking the fight against COVID hurts the economy. If you sweep the unpleasant information under the carpet in the fight against COVID, tourism bans are inevitable. For example, the German ban is not limited to Turkey, and it also includes the EU-member Spain.
Physicians are staff officers of the health army. Nurses, caregivers and all healthcare professionals are members of our health army. Sinan Adıyaman, the chairman of the Turkish Medical Association (TBB) is tired of repeating eveğry day that “we are exhausted.” We are losing our doctors, the officers of our health army.
Applauding is not enough
You have to take it seriously when someone says “We are exhausted.” Warnings at planes say “Put on your mask yourself, then your child.” The government must do the same by taking good care of doctors and healthcare professionals first.
Just like the military personnel and the police getting compensation for taking part in the fight against terrorism, the health should also be compensated, should be given enough time to rest, and should be looked after properly.
As a journalist, I can applaud the sacrifices of the health workers from my balcony, and write articles about them. But it should not be enough for Erdoğan, who runs the country, to just go out on the balcony and applaud. The disease is spreading. The need for stricter measures is obvious. You cannot get rid of the problem by sweeping it under the carpet. Of course, we will protect our rights in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. On the one hand, we have to protect our right to live, right to a healthy life, right to live humanely. The effort to protect just one thing should not make the others be forgotten, because it hurts.