Istanbul’s traffic congestion eases amid virus outbreak

Istanbul’s traffic congestion eases amid virus outbreak

ISTANBUL - Demirören News Agency
Istanbul’s traffic congestion eases amid virus outbreak

The notorious traffic congestion in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city by population, has eased over the past week amid the global coronavirus pandemic that is keeping residents away from the streets. 

As reports regarding the first cases of the deadly virus emerged around a week ago, people started using their own vehicles to commute between home and work to avoid social contact, which only added to the city’s already frustrating traffic problems. A significant portion of commuters stopped using public transport.

The number of people who use public transport declined by 44 percent as of March 16 compared with March 2, according to Murat Ongun, the spokesperson for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. 

The number of travels through public transport declined from 7.4 million on March 2 to 4.13 million on March 16, Ongun said on Twitter. 

As fewer people use public transport in the city of some 16 million residents, the number of motorists on the roads have also dropped as people heed the advises from the authorities to stay at home. 

Meanwhile, the virus outbreak is also hurting the city’s large tourism industry. 

The government announced on March 16 that all bars, restaurants, cafes, wedding venues, movie theaters and indoor children’s play areas would be closed as part of the measures to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Such venues in Istanbul already closed their doors, but others, which are not ordered to cease operations, also suffer because people are not going out. 

“There are also fewer foreign tourists. Everyone is a bit scared. We do not know how long those venues will be closed, when people will start coming out…there is nothing we could do about it…but still people’s health comes first,” said Bilal Örnek, who runs a business near the popular İstiklal Avenue in the Beyoğlu district.