Unusual scenes of deserted streets and empty squares in Turkey’s 31 cities had passed by in the early hours of Monday after a two-day curfew over the COVID-19 pandemic ended. Millions returned to work and their daily lives but the danger lingers, experts warn, calling on people to act as if they are still in lockdown.
Many of the 63 million people living in cities under the curfew complied with the measures, though some went out anyway. The Interior Ministry said Sunday evening that 24,088 people face legal proceedings for not complying with the curfew. The ministry added that legal action will be taken against shops, grocery stores and other businesses that were supposed to be closed during the curfew but remained open.
Turkey has imposed restrictions on daily life in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Though an early response to the crisis has stemmed the number of those infected, the country has had mixed success in limiting public mobility, especially on weekends and given rising temperatures. With this in mind, a weekend curfew was declared Friday in 31 mainly urban provinces.
Professor Hasan Tezer, a member of Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Science Board, said that the end of the weekend curfew should not encourage the public to ease self-imposed restrictions on their lives. He noted that they need at least 10 days to see if the curfew succeeded in limiting the number of virus cases.
“Just because we were confined to home for two days, we should not view it as 'everything is fine now.' We have to act like we are still in curfew,” he said, noting that the board may take additional measures in the coming days if cases continue to emerge.
“The consequences of the curfew will only become visible in 10 days, or the incubation period of microorganisms. The incubation usually continues for five or six days, but it sometimes takes 14 days,” he warned. “What we should do against the outbreak is simple: We will stay at home and avoid contact."
“Based on data from other countries, you can see that the number of cases did not drop as some expected. It is wrong to think that rising temperatures will lead to a decline in the numbers. This is a ‘novel’ coronavirus, so we have to remain cautious,” he said. However, Tezer is also optimistic, noting that better air circulation in homes and less contact due to nice weather may help to decrease the number of cases. “But we have to be cautious anyway and wait for solid data on this matter,” he added.
The country’s coronavirus death toll has risen to 1,198 with 97 new deaths and 481 recoveries in the past 24 hours, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Sunday.
"We have a decrease in the number of intubated patients," Koca said in a tweet, adding that more tests lead to more diagnoses and quarantines. Cases of COVID-19 stood at 56,956 on Sunday. "This struggle is to be won by staying at home," he warned.
Turkey already had a curfew in place for those above the age of 65 and those under 20, yet stopped short of a full lockdown. The government has, until this weekend, relied on the public’s compliance with calls for self-isolation. Authorities have called on people repeatedly to impose their own quarantine or lockdown measures.
Turkey was one of the first countries to take measures against the coronavirus, closing its border with Iran and halting flights from China and Italy. It has since shut down all international arrivals, restricted domestic flights and set up road checkpoints outside cities to prevent unessential travel.
Tezer said a vaccine is the most important tool to stop the pandemic. “You need an efficient vaccine and have up to 90% of the population vaccinated so that you can break the cycle of the pandemic. Once you trigger immunity and block microorganisms from infecting you, the pandemic will be over. But I am not hopeful that we will have a vaccine any time soon,” he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Monday.
Professor Pınar Okyay, another member of the science board, conveyed good news on the outbreak based on the current trends in Europe. “There is a decline in the number of cases proportionate with the number of tests, and Turkey will see a similar course, with cases plateauing out and they will gradually decrease. This transformation will take one or one and a half months,” she said. Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) on Monday, Okyay said the pandemic arrived in Turkey later than in other countries, and they hoped to see “a curve of decline” in a short span. “We have two options: decreasing the infection speed with at least 60% of the population infected and recovered, or discovering a vaccine. We are working on protecting at-risk groups to gain time and relieve the burden on the health care system,” she said. For Okyay, having more recoveries means having more people now immune to the disease. “We will have a gradual transition period to normalization and in this period, it is important who we should protect. We have to be cautious about who to allow to resume their daily lives and who we should protect more. Obviously, our priority is senior citizens, and the Health Ministry asked for a curfew for them,” she said.
Okyay pointed out that the Turkish health care sector has “an incredible capacity of response and compliance” when it comes to such catastrophes. “We have efficient, experienced health care staff. The practice of setting up neighborhood clinics starting in the 1960s helped create a spirit of teamwork among health care professionals. There is no distinction between doctors, nurses or other personnel when it comes to teamwork. This helps us to give a better response in such outbreaks,” she said.
Cases in prisons
The Justice Ministry has confirmed 17 cases of the novel coronavirus in five different open prisons, while three inmates have died of the virus, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül announced Monday.
"Seventeen convicts in five open penal institutions were diagnosed with COVID-19. Three convicts lost their lives during treatment," Gül said in a news conference in Ankara.
Gül said there were no confirmed cases in “closed” or high-security prisons.
"Of the 14 convicts still being treated in hospitals, 13 are in good health and one convict with a chronic disease is in intensive care," Gül added.
He also said 14 judges and prosecutors, 32 courthouse staff, 79 staff of prisons and 34 forensic medicine professionals tested positive for COVID-19.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.