As the world is forced to contend with second and even third waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries are taking stiffer measures to help contain the spread of the virus, and unfortunately, Turkey is no different. The onslaught of colder weather – the traditional flu season – has resulted in rising case figures. As a result, the Turkish government has laid out new safety measures at this critical stage in the pandemic.
On Monday evening, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed the nation following a Cabinet meeting and announced the new measures which took effect Dec. 1. While Turkey had already seen a fortnight of partial lockdown measures in which movement outside of the home was restricted from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and to 5 a.m. Monday, the measure has now expanded to weeknights. Residents of Turkey will be required to stay home every evening from Monday thru Friday from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Meanwhile, on the weekends, residents will be required to stay at home from 9 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday – a flashback to what we experienced in the first months of the pandemic. The weekend lockdowns take effect on Dec. 4 at 9 p.m.
Don’t fret, however, as a number of necessary shops such as pharmacies, bakeries, markets, greengrocers, butchers and even dried nuts and snack shops will remain open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. over the weekend. People will be able to procure mandatory needs from these locations, provided that the shops are within walking distance of their home and do not require a vehicle (with exceptions for people with disabilities). Those 20 and younger and 65 and older will not be allowed to frequent such shops over the weekend, however. There is already a partial lockdown in place for those 20 and younger, who are only allowed to go out between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., and those 65 and older, who are restricted from being out any time other than 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. At present, those younger than the age of 20 and 65 and older will no longer be able to use public transportation whatsoever. If these individuals need assistance, they are advised to contact the local Vefa Sosyal Destek Grubu (Welfare Social Group) by dialing 112, 155 or 156. There will, of course, be exceptions made for situations in which it is compulsory for an individual to be mobile for a particular reason, such as airplane flights, funerals or hospital appointments.
Shops, gyms and banks
In addition, employees in a number of sectors will be exempt from the weekend curfews such as those operating in procurement, logistics and agricultural production in addition to health professionals and ministry of forestry staff. Animal care centers will also be exempt from the curfew, and pet owners will be allowed to go out in front of their residence for their pets to relieve themselves. Meanwhile, the days that certain weekly farmers’ markets are held may be altered to adhere to the curfew.
In other changes that were implemented this week, weekday office hours for museums and all public administration offices will now be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you plan to drop by any governmental or public service offices, keep in mind that many establishments also have noon breaks for lunch. Banks will also be operating from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and then from 1:30 p.m.to 5 p.m. Some may operate differently so it's best to have a look on their websites or give a call. Shopping centers, gyms, beauty centers and barbers continue to remain open on weekdays only for the time being, and their operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
While gyms will continue to operate from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, swimming pools, hamams, saunas, movie theaters, amusement parks and kindergartens and children’s nursery schools have also been closed down for the time being. In earlier measures, all other educational activities had already been transitioned to online until the end of the year.
HES code and holidays
As of this week, an HES code, which is obtained via the Hayat Eve Sığar (HES) app, will be required for all public transportation as well as for entering shopping centers. There will no longer be cash transactions in public transportation, and passengers must have their HES codes synced to a mobile form of payment. This new system will ensure that all passengers’ HES accounts are connected to their public transportation cards, whether it be the IstanbulKart, the Kent Kart or simply a contactless credit card. Passengers will soon be required to have synced their two accounts, namely the HES code and their mobile form of payment. This option to sync your mode of payment with a HES code is offered on both municipality websites as well as the various transportation cards’ websites. The term in Turkish for syncing is “Tanımla” and on these websites you simply enter your HES code, ID or passport number followed by your transportation card number or credit card.
Social gatherings in private homes are not allowed, including those for funerals, special events and New Years' Eve celebrations. Both wedding and funeral prayer services will be limited to 30 participants. Certain public squares and pedestrian avenues may also be restricted if deemed overcrowded.
Erdoğan also appealed to the nation to stop smoking cigarettes and nargile water pipes to protect the public’s health and safety. Earlier this month, restrictions were imposed for smoking in public areas. Wearing masks is also compulsory in all outdoor, public and private spaces with the exception of residences. The fine for not properly wearing a mask is TL 900, which is the same fine applied to those caught smoking in public spaces.
Throughout the pandemic, I have been bragging to friends abroad about just how proficient the system of ordering food and groceries is in Turkey. While people had to wait in crowded lines just to buy toilet paper in certain countries abroad, here in Turkey all we needed to do was simply call the neighborhood market for a delivery or order groceries online, all of which were systems well in place long before COVID-19 even surfaced.
Restaurants, which were already closed to in-house service as of Nov. 20, will be allowed to offer delivery-only service during the hours of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. over the lockdown weekends. During the week, restaurants are allowed to offer delivery and takeout services. Takeout is restricted to the hours of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
And don’t even get me started on the restaurant delivery service and website Yemeksepeti.com, which makes it way too easy to order your favorite meals in. As for groceries, supermarkets such as Migros, MacroCenter, Carrefour and Şok have websites and apps where you can select, order and pay for whatever you may need that is then delivered to your door.
In addition, there are a number of additional fast grocery delivery providers and couriers for restaurants that have become increasingly accessible and popular such as Getir and GetirYemek, İste Gelsin and Banabi, the latter of which is Yemeksepeti’s new grocery delivery service app.