Not everyone ready to ditch face masks in Turkey

Not everyone ready to ditch face masks in Turkey

Not everyone ready to ditch face masks in Turkey

People in Turkey appear to be divided over what to do after the government has scrapped a mandate for wearing face masks outdoors, some saying they are not ready to take them off because they still feel the need to protect themselves.

The Health Ministry’s Science Board, which advises the government on COVID-19, announced earlier this week that people would no longer be required to have their masks on or observe the social distancing rule outdoors.

“We are not completely removing masks from our lives. We will be carrying them to wear when necessary,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

Face masks are still required in buses, planes, theaters and cinemas.
Some people walking on İstiklal Avenue, in the heart of Istanbul, still had their masks on, while others embraced the “no-mask” rule quickly.

“I will keep wearing the mask for my own health. The Health Ministry said, ‘Ok, you can ditch them,’ but it doesn’t work this way. Almost 50,000 catch the virus each day and 200 others die,” said Rahmi Öztürk, an elderly man.

The daily virus cases climbed past 100,000 in early February due to the Omicron strain of COVID-19, but they have remained below 60,000 this week.

It was a decision taken rather prematurely, another man said.

The new rules, which also relaxed some other virus-related measures, were not taken in full agreement, Koca said, noting that some experts believe it was too early.

By looking at some key data, such as the vaccination and hospitalization rates, it is not possible to say the pandemic is now under control, according to Professor Serap Şimşek Yavuz, a member of the Science Board.

Moving toward a normalization phase by lifting the existing rules at a time when the hospitalization rate and deaths from the virus are still high does not seem to be a wise thing to do, Yavuz said.

However, Professor Tevfik Özlü, also from the Science Board, disagrees. “There is no need to wear a face mask if you are in an open space and maintaining social distance,” he said, stressing that yet people need to wear masks on certain occasions.

“I do not care about the new decision [regarding the masks], this mask is for my own protection,” Ayşe Yılmaz said.

“This was a long-delayed decision. It was nonsense to ask people to wear face masks outdoors anyway. Even before the new decisions were announced, I was not wearing a face mask outdoors,” Tuğba Aydın said.

When asked why she was wearing it now out on the street, Aydın replied, “The weather is very cold; I am wearing it as a protection against the cold.”