- More than 2,000 people have died so far in Turkey and 11,976 have recovered
- Treatment and medicine for COVID-19 patients, as well as protective gear and testing, have become free of charge in public hospitals and medical centers
ANKARA: Turkey’s confirmed cases of coronavirus have shot above 82,000, the highest figure in the Middle East including Iran.
It ranks fourth among East Mediterranean countries in terms of death toll and total cases, with rates increasing each day. Turkey has more confirmed cases than China, according to data from the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
More than 2,000 people have died so far in Turkey and 11,976 have recovered.
Treatment and medicine for COVID-19 patients, as well as protective gear and testing, have become free of charge in public hospitals and medical centers.
Travel restrictions in and out of 31 cities have been extended for another 15 days. All public gatherings are banned in the country. All schools and universities are closed, and all international flights are suspended.
People under the age of 20 and above the age of 65 have not been allowed to leave their homes for a while. The government imposed a two-day curfew for the second consecutive weekend and only state officials, journalists and logistics employees were exempt.
Turkey’s Ministry of Interior banned the opposition-run Mersin municipality in the south from distributing free bread to people, even though the city is one of 31 municipalities under lockdown due to the coronavirus contagion risk.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) criticized such municipalities for creating a parallel structure.
“These municipalities act in a socially sensitive way,” Sengul Hablemitoglu, a social services expert from the European University of Lefke, told Arab News. “It cannot be seen as a rivalry against the government.”
A country-wide lockdown is not expected for the time being because of government concerns about the economy. But main opposition parties want tougher measures to contain the spread of the disease.
A group of 13 countries including Canada, Brazil, Turkey, Italy, and Germany used a joint statement to call for global cooperation against the devastating economic impact of the pandemic. It urged working with all countries to coordinate on public health, travel, trade, economic and financial measures in order to “minimize disruptions and recover stronger.”
The Turkish government is expected to borrow more and print more money or rescue some critical companies amid the economic shock that has hit sectors hard, especially tourism, food and beverage, transport and export-dependent industries. It is set, for the first time, to give its sovereign wealth fund a green light to buy some strategic private firms in distress.
The Turkish Central Bank is also holding talks with its foreign counterparts on swap lines to tackle the economic costs of the quarantine restrictions.
Political analyst Nezih Onur Kuru, from Koc University in Istanbul, said world leaders who prioritized cooperation benefited from increased approval ratings. It was a different story in Turkey, however.
“In Turkey the divergence between the ruling government and some municipalities have triggered political fault lines,” he told Arab News. “The victories of the opposition-run municipalities in Turkey during the March 2019 elections should not be forgotten, as people fervently voted for opposition candidates in these municipalities due to the feeling of being unjustly treated. This is the same for the ongoing frictions in managing the social impact of the pandemic.”
Istanbul has an increasing number of confirmed coronavirus cases, prompting Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to call for a city-wide lockdown.
Imamoglu, who is from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, defeated his AKP rival twice last year in mayoral races. Once in the poll and then again in a re-run. It was considered to be a significant warning from the city’s electorate, who felt dissatisfied with previous AKP-affiliated administrations.
Kuru added that the friction between the opposition and government was endangering relief measures at the expense of citizens.
Meanwhile a mobile tracking app, designed by the Turkish Health Ministry and cellphone operators that is accessible through the Google Play Store, has raised concerns that it may abuse people’s personal data. It sends automated messages to people diagnosed with the virus and gives the option to track people’s movements on the map.
The next two weeks may see virus cases peak in Turkey.