Nationwide lockdown begins with tight inspections
As Turkey went into a 17-day-long full lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, authorities ramped up inspections on the first day of the curfews despite people largely complying with the rules.
Inspections on drivers, passengers and pedestrians in various busy points of Istanbul, the country’s largest city with a population of around 16 million, have been conducted by police teams on the first night of the nationwide lockdown to be in effect until 17 May.
The vehicles were stopped one by one, while the permits of the drivers and passengers were checked in the inspections carried out on Istanbul’s Fatih and Bakırköy districts and D-100 Highway. Those who did not have a special permission allowing them to be exempt from the lockdown rules were fined.
All workplaces have suspended their activities during the full lockdown, but the workers of the businesses deemed to be carrying out essential work are exempt, according to a circular by the Interior Ministry.
On the first day of the lockdown, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality also increased the number of services of public transportation vehicles, which have to operate at half its passenger capacity during the curfew, but people have drawn attention to crowds commuting to work on some buses and metrobuses.
Meanwhile Bodrum, a Turkish resort town in the Aegean province of Muğla, was hit by an influx of visitors who want to spend the lockdown in their summer houses or in hotels.
Ahmet Aras, the mayor of Bodrum, a town of 181,000 people that is among the most popular summer destinations in Turkey, has expressed his concerns as long lines of vehicles filled the main road to the town over the past three days.
The lockdown added to the woes of the municipality, already trying to cope with a high number of visitors as the town’s population already swelled to more than 500,000 since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
“We are already facing a serious high season in terms of population. This is like something going back to last year. People from all across the country, people with summer houses here, have been living here since last year,” Aras told Demirören News Agency.
“We were not prepared for such an increase in population. There is real chaos here,” Aras said, pointing out that the municipality’s resources are limited and designed to address the needs of a much smaller population.
However, the most urgent challenge is a possible rise in infections.
“We fear that new arrivals will bring and spread infections. Our health care service is limited to a small population. We only have 300 hospital beds and 30 intensive care beds. In case of a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, it will be insufficient,” he added.