Covid lockdown in Turkey to end amid lingering questions


People walk on Istanbul’s famous Istiklal Avenue. Tourists to Turkey were exempted from the 19-day lockdown. (Photo: Twitter)

Turkey ends a 19-day lockdown early on May 17, which was announced to reduce daily new cases of Covid-19 to around 5,000 ahead of the upcoming tourism season, a failed attempt so far.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on May 14 that the normalization process will begin after May 17. However, the Heath Ministry announced the same day some 11,394 new cases, more than twice the figure set by the president for a key decision on sustaining the lockdown. In the lack of support for business and jobs, the lockdown has come under criticism amid fragilities of the economy.

President Erdoğan admitted that “some employees and tradesmen could have been affected by the lockdown,” promising support. However, no concrete plans have been announced. Before the lockdown, the government decided to pull back a job support program declared at the start of the pandemic, but retreated form its decision upon reaction from the business groups, mainly The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), and opposition parties.

Sharp decline in new cases in question

The sharp fall from some 60.000 daily new cases at the start of the lockdown is also in question since some 7 million people of the 83.6 million population were granted work permits as many facilities kept working.

The daily number of Covid-19 tests stood at 283 on April 28, the day before the start of the lockdown, but fell to 203,000 as of May 14.

Public health specialist doctor Nuriye Ortaylı wrote on Yetkinreport that the Health Ministry explanation on decline in test numbers was invalid. Minister Fahrettin Koca had said the drop in tests was related to a fall in applications to hospitals.

However, Ortaylı recalled a World Health Organization (WHO) notice that positive test result rates over 5 percent indicate insufficient testing.

The rate of positive results in overall tests in Turkey has fallen to some 6 percent by the end of the lockdown from 20.

Lockdown without preparations

The lockdown started amid main obscurities on which facilities and institutes would be closed.

The first debate was over the ban on alcohol sales, with small liquor shops resisting the government decision.

Then came the announcement of the Religious Affairs that mosques would be open during the lockdown.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, made it clear during a meeting with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, the new measures were linked to a bid to offset the losses in the tourism industry.

The minister promised to “vaccine all tourism staff that would encounter visitors.”

Cafes, restaurants to open

The exact measures after the end of the lockdown will be decided at a cabinet meeting on May 17. Still, daily Hürriyet reported that restaurants and cafes will reopen with guest quotas and between limited hours.

The same report said inspectors from both Tourism and Interior Ministries will tourism monitor facilities with undercover personnel.

Hair dressers and tailor shops are also expected to open.

Crowd events such as weddings, funerals might be allowed in the upcoming days as part of the normalization moves.

The cabinet might decide on ending the lockdown at the May 17 meeting. May 19 is the anniversary of the start of the Turkish War of Independence in 1919 and it is a public holiday.


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