“Please celebrate it with members of your nuclear family,” associate professor Sema Turan warned the public on Sunday as Turkey counts down the days to its first New Year's celebration since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March in the country.
The new year is a widely celebrated occasion for millions of people in the country with people taking to the streets to party, watch concerts and fireworks no matter the weather. Unfortunately, they will have to skip the countdown to midnight this year as the pandemic has forced authorities to scale down crowded events. A four-day curfew will be in place across the country starting on the evening of Dec. 31.
Turan, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, which advises on COVID-19 related restrictions, said she suggests everyone celebrate at home with only their closest family members. “Don’t go outdoors, don’t go to the large, crowded venues. Even at home, there should not be a crowd. Otherwise, there will be consequences,” she warned.
Since last month, Turkey stepped up restrictions, stopping short of a full lockdown, due to an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases. At first, a weekend curfew was introduced but when it failed to affect the number of new cases, the government introduced night curfews on weekends and declared a full 56-hour weekend lockdown, from Friday to early Monday for the New Year's holiday.
Public events, outdoor and indoor, were strictly scaled-down and New Year's celebrations will be no exception. Night clubs and indoor locations that can be used for celebrations have already closed.
Turan, who also works at Ankara City Hospital's intensive care unit in the capital, told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Sunday that health care workers were struggling with the rising numbers of patients, but the curfews have eased their caseloads. “This shows that compliance with rules can help fight the pandemic. If we continue complying with restrictions, the outbreak may end in months,” she said.
She also warned about traveling to vacation resorts and other cities over the four-day curfew. “The restrictions aim to keep people at home, to prevent crowding. To create such crowding before restrictions would obviously be problematic. I call people not to hit the road. Mark the new year with less celebration and do not make crowds,” she advised.
Turkey currently has more than 2 million COVID-19 cases, but the daily number of cases has dropped in the past few days. Recoveries, meanwhile, reached 1.78 million, while the daily death toll apparently did not slow down, fluctuating above 200. The country has logged 17,851 fatalities since March and has performed over 22.2 million tests.