Is it safe to go back to your hairdresser or favorite restaurant? As the Turkish public awaits answers to this question, authorities have started issuing safety certificates to businesses paying the utmost attention to measures against the coronavirus.
In the pilot province of Kırıkkale in central Turkey, authorities handed out certificates to businesses that reopened in June after multiple inspections. “This place of business complies with COVID-19 outbreak measures,” reads the certificate, prominently displayed in each venue. The practice will be expanded nationwide if it succeeds in Kırıkkale. On Monday and Tuesday, crews from the Provincial Pandemic Inspection Center, first founded in Kırıkkale, delivered certificates to three barbershops which had the highest rating in compliance with the measures regarding hygiene, social distancing and mask-wearing.
“Barbershops and hairdressers were the first places to shut down during the pandemic, so we started inspections there for our ‘safe area’ certificates,” Kırıkkale Deputy Gov. Mehmet Ercan Aslantaş told reporters in one of the barbershops. “So far, 15 hairdressers and barbershops were certified and we started delivering (the certificates),” he said.
Kırıkkale, which neighbors the capital Ankara, was chosen as the pilot location for a new set of measures against COVID-19 earlier this month. The pandemic inspection center there serves as an oversight mechanism to enforce the outbreak-related rules.
Provinces already have pandemic boards in place that take measures specific to each province based on the number of cases. The new regulations aim to tighten those measures. They calls for governorates and law enforcement to monitor patients with mild COVID-19 cases who are ordered to self-isolate, particularly in the first week of isolation. The Interior Ministry says Turkey has entered a new phase where guiding, convincing and deterring people in the fight against the pandemic has become essential in the new “controlled social life.” Governorates are ordered to set up contact-tracing monitoring boards, which will closely monitor patients at hospitals and in self-isolation and report daily changes in cases. Contact-tracing teams formed by the Health Ministry in every province will be supported by law enforcement as well as local officials and leaders like village headmen, teachers and imams, to raise awareness of the disease.
A call center was also set up in Kırıkkale for citizens to file complaints and tip-offs for rule violations. The province will also set up a database of inspected businesses and mass transit vehicles. Businesses, mass transit vehicles and taxis complying with rules are being given a “safe area” logo.
Seyfi Duman, the owner of one of three barbershops designated safe after three inspections, said he is proud to serve his customers with utmost hygiene. “We suffered after reopening as people were unsure about safety here,” he said. Duman’s barbershop is regularly disinfected, with extra attention given to seats. Customers are admitted only after they apply hand sanitizer and properly wear a mask. “All the materials we use here are regularly disinfected, and we wear gloves for each haircut. We also use single-use items like towels, tissues,” Duman said.
As the number of daily cases has recently remained above 1,000, authorities were forced to introduce new measures for senior citizens, one of the most vulnerable groups to COVID-19. In more than a dozen cities, people age 65 and above are now subject to partial curfews. Restrictions are specific for each province based on the caseload. In Ankara, for instance, senior citizens and those suffering from chronic diseases are now prohibited from attending weddings, funerals, condolence visits, marketplaces or social activities. The authorities also ordered all public transport vehicles to have Plexiglas separators installed between the driver and passengers.
In the northwestern province of Bursa, senior citizens are banned from taking mass transit during rush hour and from visiting marketplaces when those places are too crowded.
Turkey on Monday confirmed 1,233 new coronavirus cases and 22 deaths from COVID-19, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.
The new infections were spotted in more than 74,000 tests carried out in 24 hours. With Monday’s numbers, Turkey’s total number of coronavirus cases surpassed 250,000, while the death toll increased to 5,996.
The minister also said 1,002 patients had recovered from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries to 231,971. Koca warned that although new patients can easily recover from the disease, the rising infection rates gave way to an increase in critically ill people.
Authorities may consider further measures ahead of the new school year, which is set to start on Sept. 21 with in-person classes. The website of the Hürriyet newspaper reported Tuesday that Sept. 21 will be the deadline for the application of three proposed measures. Also aiming to curb the anticipated rise in cases in autumn, measures include increasing the number of daily tests up to 150,000. Experts also recommend scanning high-risk groups like taxi and bus drivers, restaurant staff and house cleaners. Third, positive patients who violate self-isolation rules are recommended to be taken to student dormitories for supervised confinement.
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