Large families facilitate virus spread in Turkish city Van: Governor

Large families facilitate virus spread in Turkish city Van: Governor

Toygun Atilla-ISTANBUL
Large families facilitate virus spread in Turkish city Van: Governor

Large families, customs and traditions facilitate the spread of the coronavirus in the eastern province of Van, according to Governor Emin Bilmez.

There have been at least 480 confirmed cases, while 18,000 people are presently under quarantine in the province which has a population of around 1.1 million.

A total of 66,000 residents of Van had undergone quarantine so far.

According to officials, more than half of those confirmed cases resulted from visits made by relatives and friends to offer condolences to a deceased’s family, a deep-rooted custom in Van.

“The virus is not spreading on the streets of Van. People mostly contract the diseases at their homes because the size of the households is large in the province,” said Emin Bilmez, who also serves as the mayor.

“Locals have 15-20 siblings and they have children. Thus, at family gatherings up to 60 to 80 people come together. If one person has the virus, it spreads to entire family,” Bilmez added.

Bilmez repeatedly mentioned the words “customs” and “traditions” when explaining the causes behind the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

When a person passes away, the deceased’s family sets up tents to accept people’s condolences or welcome visitors just outside of their homes. As large groups of people gather for this customary ritual, the virus can easily spread from one person to another.

Since such visits are important to the locals, people feel obliged to observe this tradition.

Van has made headlines in the media with reports suggesting that people found ways to circumvent anti-virus measures. For instance, individuals escaped from a local hospital where they were receiving treatment. In another reported incident, people called the helpline to get permission to go to hospital. But once the permission was granted, they visited their relatives to celebrate a religious holiday.

Probes were launched into three muhtars (local village heads) for failing to report people who arrived in Van from other cities or inform the authorities about COVID-19 cases.

The governor’s office publicizes such incidents by letting the media report them. Those efforts seem to have paid off. One individual informed the authorities that his nephew was on a bus from Istanbul. Seven people tested positive for the virus on that bus.