Health care workers don head-to-toe protective suits as they struggle through shifts with sweating being the least of their worries.
These front-line warriors fighting the coronavirus pandemic have the literal "battle scars" on their faces to prove it. A grim reminder of the ongoing fight keeping doctors and nurses confined to hospitals due to a negligent public not grasping the seriousness of the situation.
Seher Altuncu and Gülhan Aksu Akarsu, two nurses serving in Turkey’s northern Trabzon and southeastern Diyarbakır provinces, respectively, are among thousands of health care workers sacrificing their time and health for the well-being of COVID-19 patients. The two nurses' photos, showing deep marks on their faces from wearing masks all day, recently went viral and drew praise from the Turkish public.
Altuncu works in the intensive care unit of Kanuni Training and Research Hospital in Trabzon. She was "honored" to receive praise and says nurses should be "appreciated" for their work during the pandemic.
She had recently been assigned to the hospital when the pandemic broke out, she told Demirören News Agency (DHA) Monday. "I suddenly found myself handling an influx of cases. We went through a difficult process that is still ongoing. Me and others are trying to overcome challenges."
The young nurse occasionally worked daylong shifts where they are required to remain in the protective suit and mask most of the time. "You can avoid a person you see coughing on the street, thinking they have coronavirus. Here at the hospital, we are face to face with positive patients. Not that we complain. It is our duty. Some people can dismiss our job and say we are paid already. But this is not something you can be paid enough for. This is something that you won’t do for money," she said.
Altuncu is very thankful for the wave of praise and support on social media for her and other health care workers and recalls the day she took the photo. "It was a busy shift. Sometimes, you go inside (the intensive care unit) for one hour but stay there for hours. It was one of those days. When I removed the mask, my face was very different. After I went home, I was still feeling like there was a mask on my face. I shared that photo so people can see what the health care workers had to endure."
Altuncu calls on the public to be careful and comply with measures. "It is not like we tell people to entirely stop what they do in their daily lives. Life goes on anyway. But you should be careful about observing social distancing, wearing masks and hygiene. And you should not be alone in wearing masks. Everybody should wear masks, all the time. It will be easier to end the pandemic if everyone complies with measures," she said.
Akarsu, another nurse whose mask-bruised face also hit social media, has been working at a COVID-19 ward at Dicle University Hospital in Diyarbakır. Akarsu had ended a 24-hour shift when she saw her face but the reflection did not deter her. "I have been working for about a month at the ward. We do our best every day to help the patients. I saw scars on my face when I removed the mask but it did not disturb me. I’ll continue working for the COVID-19 patients. But I appeal to the public to be cautious, for the sake of health care workers. We are doing everything for them and they can be more careful about rules against the pandemic," she told İhlas News Agency (İHA) Monday.
Dr. Okan Çalışkan of Kars Public Hospital (specialized in COVID-19) and Zerrin Orbak, a pediatrician at the School of Medicine at Atatürk University in the eastern province of Erzurum, both stress the importance of following the rules to combat the virus.
Çalışkan told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the initial two to three weeks after the pandemic started in Turkey were particularly tough for him and all medical staff who had to work long shifts with little sleep. Although during this period they gained a lot of experience and working conditions improved, he adds.
Highlighting the role of the public in the battle against COVID-19, he said, "Some people's stubbornness in not wearing masks or insistence on attending weddings or other social activities as if the pandemic does not exist not only play a role in the transmission of the COVID-19, it also undermines the motivation of medical staff who selflessly work to save lives."
Speaking on how to curb the spread of the COVID-19, Dr. Orbak, a senior pediatrician, pointed out the children's role as transmitters. "When children have COVID-19, they mostly pull through it without showing any symptoms. They continue their normal daily activities. So, they spread it to older adults and vulnerable people they interact with," she said. "For this reason, children over 7 should also wear masks and avoid interacting with other people as much as possible." Dr. Orbak also praised the Health Ministry for successfully managing and coordinating the process and embracing preventive medicine.
Turkey recorded 1,467 new COVID-19 cases and 1,116 recoveries over the past 24 hours as of Sunday, the Health Ministry reports. The overall case count has reached 314,433 to date, with 275,630 total recoveries, according to ministry data. A total of 101,119 more tests were done over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to over 10 million. The death toll from the virus in Turkey reached 7,997, with 68 new fatalities. The figures also showed that the number of patients in critical condition now stands at 1,583, with 6.5% suffering from pneumonia.
CHANGED SHIFTS FOR ISTANBUL
On Monday Istanbul – Turkey's most crowded city with more than 15 million people – followed Ankara's lead with the implementation of different shifts in the public sector designed to reduce rush hour traffic caused by commuters.
Though there were fewer people in mass transit and private vehicles, the traffic was still dense in the early hours of Monday with some 4.2 million people using public transport according to the figures by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB).
Under the advice of the city's pandemic board, employees in certain public sectors now start work at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. but the private sector, whose employees make up 60% of commuters have yet to participate in the scheme.
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