Turkey is juggling the resumption of daily life and the necessary measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak. This difficult task has forced authorities to introduce new rules, including new restrictions for wedding parties and more working options.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a new presidential decree Wednesday that made an informal working model official. Under the decree, all state institutions may now implement flexible working methods. In March, when the outbreak was first reported in the country, Turkey started allowing civil servants to work from home and in varied shifts, replacing a brief administrative leave with the continued but safe working scheme.
The new decree published in the Official Gazette orders new working schemes in a bid “to minimize COVID-19 outbreak from spreading.” To continue providing services during the outbreak, all institutions will provide remote working or new shifts for employees. Administrators, from ministers to governors, will plan new options. For those working in rotating shifts, administrative leaves will be in place for shifts they do not work. Those working remotely and working in rotating, reduced shifts will have equal work responsibility.
On Tuesday evening, the Interior Ministry ordered a ban on some social activities, including traditional henna nights and engagement ceremonies, in 14 provinces, starting Wednesday. The directive, which explains some new measures taken against the COVID-19 pandemic, was sent to provincial governorates. The provinces include the capital Ankara, northwestern Bursa, central Çorum, Kayseri, Konya and Yozgat, southern Adana, southeastern Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Mardin and Şanıurfa, and eastern Ağrı, Erzurum and Van.
In the 14 provinces, weddings will be limited to just one hour and the chairs in wedding halls will be rearranged in line with social distancing rules. The dance floors will be closed. All kinds of food and beverage service and catering, except packaged water service, will be prohibited, including meals at weddings. Citizens aged 65 and over and children under the age of 15 who are not first- or second-degree relatives of the bride and groom will be prohibited from attending weddings and related ceremonies. At least one public officer such as a municipal police officer will attend wedding ceremonies to ensure measures are followed.
Wedding parties are already subject to severe limitations all across Turkey but blatant violations of rules, from social distancing to wearing masks, in some wedding parties have made the headlines recently.
887 more recoveries
Turkey reported 887 more recoveries from the coronavirus Tuesday, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. Meanwhile, 24 new deaths were reported in the last 24 hours along with 1,502 new cases.
In a statement on Twitter, Koca said Turkey has conducted over 6.5 million coronavirus tests to date.
The number of recovered patients topped 238,795 as of Tuesday, while a total of 6,163 people have died so far due to the virus.
Professor Serhat Ünal, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, said even 1,000 daily cases are “too many" for Turkey. “Our cases are relatively low compared to other countries but the daily caseload is still high for me. We have to reduce it at least below 500,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Wednesday. Ünal, who recovered from the coronavirus, said cases are on the rise across the world and there is a need for a definitive solution to the problem. “We need either a 100% effective drug or a vaccine. In Turkey, there are 13 studies and our vaccine work is near clinical trial,” he said.
“We see a rise in the cases because the world has started to emerge from a five-month problematic process with restrictions. Then, (there was) a false perception that rising temperatures would prevent the emergence of more infections. This is not true. The disease prevails in warm countries," Ünal said.
"After restrictions were lifted, people confused it with the end of the outbreak and ditched measures like wearing masks, social distancing and hygiene. We saw people attending parties,” he lamented.
Ünal said that the public should always bear in mind that someone they passed by in a crowded place might be a positive patient and should wear masks all the time. “(Wearing a) mask and keeping a distance of at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) with others gives great protection,” he said.
He said he expected there would be more cases in Turkey despite warnings and rules. “Measures are the only way now to prevent more infections. There might be a second wave of infections in October and November when temperatures decrease. We have to be prepared,” he said, pointing out that the state was already taking measures by increasing the number of beds in intensive care units and ventilators.
Heeding the rules brings much-needed protection, but Ayhan Sümer Yaman was among the unfortunate few who were infected despite taking protective measures. An emergency room doctor at Ankara Training and Research Hospital, Yaman, 48, managed to recover and is back at work. “I wore my mask and face shield and always observed social distancing. Yet, that 1% possibility of infection, no matter how protected you are, made me infected,” Yaman told Demirören News Agency (DHA) Wednesday.
Yaman, who already suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes and a heart condition, was treating COVID-19 patients when he was infected in the last week of June. He spent about one month in the hospital before recovering.
“It was a rough time that shook up my whole life. I had a fever and fatigue. I thought I’d die at times. I could not even move a finger. They would administer drugs but they were effective at keeping me better only for a few hours. Then, you lapse into that bad state again. Breathing was so painful. I felt like someone was pressing a pillow on my face while I was breathing. I can only wish no one else will suffer so much,” he recounted of his days with coronavirus.
Yaman is back helping COVID-19 patients but also looks to warn others. “I warn people to wear masks whenever I see someone not wearing them. But people tell me it is none of my business. I tell them it is my business because that was probably why I was infected,” he said.