Turkey in mass mobilizaton against COVID-19
History will mark these days as one of the darkest hours of humanity, desperate against the spread of the coronavirus that has already killed at least 7,000 people. Scientists worldwide are in a race against the clock to find a cure to the pandemic while governments are taking tough measures to keep the number of infected people and deceased at minimum.
The pandemic is now severely hitting the European continent, with Italy suffering the most so far. The European Union is considering restricting travel within the Schengen boundaries, while Italy is in full quarantine and France and Spain will likely follow it. Millions of people are trying to adapt their personal and business lives to the new reality imposed by the coronavirus. The case is no different in Turkey.
Turkey’s first action against the coronavirus was taken on Jan. 22 with the installment of thermal cameras at airports to screen passengers coming from China. Turkey evacuated its citizens from Wuhan city of Hubei province in China on Feb. 1 before canceling all flights from this country as of Feb. 3. The situation has deteriorated since then and Turkey reported its first case on March 11. The figure was 47 late yesterday when this column was being written.
At the core of Turkey’s fight against the virus is the 25-member Scientific Council headed by the health minister and with the participation of senior medical doctors. They regularly meet, revise the situation and advise the measures to be taken by different ministries. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan chaired a seven-hour-long meeting on March 12 and will do another one on March 18 with the participation of all ministers as well as the heads of related institutions.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has warned that the virus will go around in a faster speed in the coming period. One reason for this concern is the fact that the first group of pilgrims who returned from Saudi Arabia were not placed under quarantine. They have scattered to different parts of the country without being examined.
The number of cases will also increase as Turkey is authorizing more laboratories to test for the virus. Koca said these tests will be held in 16 different medical institutions to increase Turkey’s testing capacity.
It’s essentially important to be able to know how many people have been infected with the virus in order to conduct a better struggle against it.
Experts often express their concern that the virus may infect many more people in Turkey with a snowball effect, and the only way to avoid this is the implementation of strict social distancing and isolation. A full closure of the borders and restricting freedom of travel within the country could be among the next measures to be announced by the government as Turkey will be in the eye of the storm.
In line with advice, more people are working from home and fewer people are seen in the streets. The government is taking economic measures to address the difficulties to be observed in the coming period while municipalities are disinfecting vehicles used for public transport and all other social centers.
Turkey, like many other countries, is now preparing before the worst is observed. The pace of the spread and its scope will determine whether the government might declare a state of emergency for a more efficient fight against the pandemic.