Interior minister accepts criticisms on timing of curfew’s announcement
Ankara late on April 10 announced a two-day curfew in 31 provinces that took effect at midnight. The announcement came about 10.00 p.m. local time and said it would affect 30 metropolises, including the capital Ankara, Istanbul, the Aegean province of İzmir, and Zonguldak, where respiratory diseases are intensely common among the residents.
A circular on the matter was sent to relevant governor’s offices and stipulated that places other than bakeries, hospitals, pharmacies and workplaces producing health and medical supplies will not operate for two days, until April 12 midnight.
The curfew’s announcement received many criticisms as people in the said provinces flocked to markets and bakeries who were still open for last-minute shopping.
Roads in the cities were also full of traffic and long queues were seen forming outside grocery stores, bakeries and banks.
There was even footage posted on social media showing people packed in markets not practicing social distancing, in heated quarrels outside the grocery stores and some were seen without masks, covering their mouths with their hands, despite a decision taken about two weeks ago on the mandatory usage of face masks in crowded areas.
Speaking to daily Hürriyet, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, “I received the criticisms and I accepted them.”
“In the two-hour period, there was congestion in some places. I could not foresee this. I have experience but I still do not think that the limited congestion at that hour would cause a big problem,” he said.
“Our citizens think the ban will continue forever. That is the reason for limited congestion. But I am sure of one thing: There will always be a risk no matter our method. The number of people who get out at that hour is around 250,000 to 300,000,” he said.
Soylu said that the curfew decision was taken on the ground that it would not hurt the production and supply chain.
“This is an important decision in this sense,” he said.
“On its timing, the decision belongs to our ministry. I am saying once again: I received the criticisms and I accepted them,” Soylu underlined.
Soylu also said that the ministry examined curfew decisions taken in other countries and said that the announcements, made two or three days before curfew takes effect, leads to an even greater flock to grocery stores.
“We did not want that to happen,” he said.
“The grocery stores close after 9.00 p.m. [local time]. We announced the curfew after 09.00 p.m. by thinking this. Some said you should have announced it at 11.59 p.m. But then, we would have encountered other problems. It would have been an issue for our people who went to visit other places,” he added.
Opposition praises decision, criticizes timing
Meanwhile, Turkey’s opposition parties hailed the ministry’s decision, yet still voiced criticism on the announcement’s timing.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) group deputy chair Özgür Özel said that Turkey “has been pushed into a chaos.”
“A curfew was announced because weather was going to be warm for two days. If it can be carried out in the right way, it was accurate. But it was done without planning,” Özel said.
Opposition İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener also reacted against the announcement’s timing.
“The [government] has once again proved how novice they are in crisis management. I urge all our citizens to be calm and protect themselves, and their loved ones, by abiding by the [curfew],” Akşener said.
Science Board reacts against crowds
In the meantime, the members of the Science Board have reacted against the crowds that emerged on April 10 night, after the announcement of the curfew, saying their efforts have been “wasted.”
“Neither masks nor gloves remained in one hour. All rules have been broken. It is saddening that Mr. Minister’s 30-days of efforts have been wasted for [carbonated soda] and bread,” said Prof. Serap Şimşek Yavuz.
“I hope that this disease would not peak in the coming weeks. Please do not panic, there is nothing to be scared of,” she said.
People in grocery store queues were seen carrying junk food and types of carbonated soda. Many have reacted against this, saying this kind of food is “non-essential” and does not afford risking getting infected with COVID-19.
“Similar news are coming from across Turkey. People have now seemed to give up on social distancing,” said Prof. Alpay Azap.
Science Board member Prof. Tevfik Özlü also reacted against the crowds, saying this is a “breaking point” and people who poured to the streets will have an effect on the spread which is estimated to emerge in one week to 10 days.