Ankara returns to ‘business as usual’ amid reopening

Ankara returns to ‘business as usual’ amid reopening

Turkey has entered a new phase in its tackling of the novel coronavirus as it announced new steps for the reopening of the country after two and a half months of a partial lockdown. The unlocking process from July 1 includes the opening of the restaurants, cafés and etc., resumption of domestic flights and lifting intercity travels from and to 15 biggest cities which have been under quarantine for weeks.

Obviously, the most important drive behind this is the decrease in the number of newly infected cases across the country with a reduced death toll.

On May 30, Turkey registered fewer than 1,000 new cases as it tested almost 40,000 people within 24 hours, with fewer than 30 deaths. Thanks to this picture, the government has now decided to move forward with its plans to reopen the country.

But, at the same time, Turkish officials and medical experts continue to urge citizens that lifting restrictions does not mean to a return to our lives before the pandemic. Wearing masks while outdoor, following the hygienic rules and abiding by the social distancing will be the main principles of what they call “the new normal.”

In a televised interview on May 30, presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın highlighted June 1 as a very significant day in marking Turkey’s months-long struggle against the coronavirus. “My call concerning June 1 is that we implement the measures,” Kalın said, expressing his satisfaction with the fact that wearing masks has turned out to be a daily habit for almost all Turks.

The loosening lockdown restrictions will also be observed in governmental works. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is planning to go to Ankara this week after nearly two and a half months to lead key meetings in person.

The cabinet meeting will hold its regular meeting with the participation of all the ministers at the presidency which will be followed by a bi-monthly National Security Council (MGK) meeting again this week. Erdoğan is also preparing to chair important gatherings at his Justice and Development Party (AKP) while parliament will resume its works starting from June 2.

Ankara is returning to business as usual and will tackle four top issues in the coming period: The fight against the coronavirus will still be a priority, as there is always a risk of a second wave of the outbreak. Loosening restrictions could pave the way for the virus to bounce back, as seen in some countries.

The second priority will be the economy. The government is confident that the Turkish economy will survive the recession, but the figures indicating an increase in the number of people living under the poverty line signal a difficult process ahead.

Thirdly, the foreign and security agenda will require a new outlook in the post-pandemic era. A cease-fire in Syria still holds, but the overall situation in the region is still very fragile. Libya has become a focal point on Turkey’s foreign policy calculations as all high-ranking Turkish officials reiterate Ankara’s determination in standing with the Tripoli government against General Khalifa Haftar. More hectic diplomacy should be expected as Turkey is trying to convince Russia, France and others to cut ties with Haftar.

Finally, domestic politics will gain new momentum in June as the government mulls introducing new bills to curb the rights and autonomy of a number of associations and civil society organizations.

This campaign could also include provisions to amend key laws on the political parties and elections, which would eventually escalate the tension.

Having said all, “health first” should still be the top motto here and everywhere as the pandemic is still a threat.