Miners in Zonguldak resolute against COVID-19
As a lockdown continues in Turkey’s northern province of Zonguldak as part of the country’s measures against the novel coronavirus, tens of thousands of people are isolating themselves from daily life, including hard-working miners.
The self-isolation is taken seriously in the Black Sea province, known for its rich coal reserves, as miners and their families are aware that COVID-19 poses more risk to those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, an occupational hazard of mining.
Zonguldak is the only non-metropolitan Turkish province subject to weekend curfews.
“I have been working as a miner for about 14 years, and this novel coronavirus is a source of anxiety among people here. But I feel confident, as we have annual checkups and receive psychological support,” said Aydın Çelik.
Stressing that most people in the province were aware of the gravity of the spreading of the coronavirus, 38-year-old Çelik said people, especially families of miners, were cautious and there has been a significant decline in the number of people on streets.
He went on to say that his colleagues working outside were also cautious so they would not be infected and possibly face a “serious treatment process or worse” and their families were conscious of the pandemic.
“The coal history of this province is what makes us all pay extra attention to this virus issue,” he said. “We stick to official instructions and try not to leave home unless we have to. These days will pass.”
He said mining was a demanding job requiring physical strength and this isolation period had given him an opportunity to finally rest for a while and spend time with his wife and children.
“We are resting in our homes, performing religious duties, chatting or playing console games,” he said, referring to the lockdown as an “odd holiday in which you cannot travel.”
Another miner, Ali Gümüştaş, said the coronavirus initially had an adverse psychological effect on people in the province, but the state’s response of banning the exit and entry of people to Zonguldak due to common respiratory issues was a source relief.
“Zonguldak stands tall thanks to the measures adopted earlier by the state. If it [coronavirus] had hit directly, there could have been many fatalities,” Gümüştaş, 38, said, adding panic steadily grew in the province.
“The streets are almost completely empty now. Only a handful of people go out to buy commodities,” he said.
“This panic also contributed to a successful social isolation policy though. People take it seriously here.”
He noted that elderly people, including retired miners, account for a significant portion of the province’s population and argued that this could be another reason behind the “conscious” behavior of its residents.
Although his colleague Çelik seems to be enjoying his free time under isolation, Gümüştaş is worried about the closure of mines, as this could have long-term effects.
“I hope the mines will start operating soon. They play a significant role in our country’s development and industry. I understand and welcome the measures. God willing, this coronavirus issue will be concluded soon,” he said.