Erdoğan launches national campaign against COVID-19
Turkey’s president on March 30 launched a “National Solidarity Campaign” to aid the fight against the novel coronavirus.
Announcing the “We are self-sufficient, Turkey” campaign, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he was donating seven months of his salary as a way to kickstart the fundraiser and added that several ministers have already joined as well.
“I am launching the campaign personally by donating my seven-month salary,” Erdoğan said in his address to the nation.
“Our goal is to help those financially struggling, especially daily wage workers, due to the precautions taken against the outbreak,” Erdoğan noted.
Cabinet members in the government and lawmakers have donated 5.2 million Turkish Liras ($791,000) to the campaign, he added.
He also stressed that Turkey enjoys better medical facilities than other countries fighting the virus, saying: “Turkey is rapidly opening new hospitals while also strengthening the existing ones.”
“We are determined to use all means to curb the spread of the virus,” he added.
The president said that from masks to medicine Turkey was in a place to produce its own needs in the fight against the pandemic.
“We have so far distributed more than 24 million surgical masks, 3 million N-95 masks, a million gowns, and 181,000 protective eyewear. We also have the means to increase the production rate of these materials,” he said.
41 villages, neighborhoods under quarantine
“We are determined to use all means to curb the spread of the virus,” he said, stressing that the country now is able to conduct more than 10,000 tests per day.
Some 41 neighborhoods and villages are under quarantine in the country, he said, calling on the public to self-quarantine in their homes.
He also pointed out that Turkey did not face any problems concerning its food supply, and that it had a surplus in agricultural production.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases surged to 10,827 in Turkey as 1,610 more people tested positive for the virus, according to the Health Ministry.
A total of 162 patients have recovered and were discharged from hospitals since the beginning of the outbreak, according to data released on March 30, which showed that 725 patients were being treated under intensive care.
Opposition lashes out at campaign
Meanwhile, Turkey’s opposition parties lashed out at the “National Solidarity Campaign,” accusing the government of “squandering collected taxes.”
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chair Tuncay Özkan criticized the government for “demanding money” from the citizens.
“They said we are at a state where we can lend [money] to the [International Monetary Fund] IMF, but asked for money from the citizens. What has Turkey become?” Özkan said.
Muharrem İnce, the CHP’s former presidential candidate for the June 24, 2018 elections, were also among the critics of the campaign.
“This great nation can pay taxes and donate at hard times. Those who govern the state collects taxes, will not squander and so what is necessary,” İnce said.
“The state cannot launch a donation campaign. It will grant aid. Those who spent the taxes on [construction projects] concrete are once again in need of the donations from our nation,” he added.
Opposition İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener also slammed the campaign, calling on the president to donate an aircraft gifted from the Qatar Emir.
“This is unbelievable! The amount of money, which is to be paid to the contractors, is about 21 billion [Turkish] Liras. Our state should at least not pay these people for three months,” Akşener said in an interview with a private television channel.
“My advice to Erdoğan: That salary is not enough, he must donate that Qatar aircraft once and for all,” she said.
As a response to the criticisms, Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter that the campaign is for “national solidarity.”
“National solidarity is not the state asking for money from the public. It is the support of each individual of the nation, without class, ideology and politics discrimination, amid such a difficulty,” he said in a tweet.
“The nation will not forget the people who try to set obstacles in front of the works for the sake of cheap calculations,” he added.