Turkey to gradually normalize after lockdown

Turkey to gradually normalize after lockdown

A new era in Turkey’s fight against COVID-19 will begin on May 17 whose details will be announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after a weekly cabinet meeting.

A three-stage normalization phase is expected to be announced in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus while gradual reopening is taking place.

The first period is expected to be between May 17 and May 31. Weekday curfew is believed to end during this period to allow small shopkeepers and craftsmen to operate. Restaurants and cafes are expected to open under strict conditions, as well. Weekend curfews and intercity travel ban may continue to extend throughout this period.

The real reopening is believed to start June 1, just like last year. Weekend curfews are expected to end with restaurants and cafes operating longer hours and with a larger capacity. More importantly, July 1 will mark the end of the remaining restrictions.

Public health experts are, however, raising concerns regarding a careless reopening process. As was seen in March after a hasty decision to end the restrictions, lifting them in an unorderly way can lead to a new surge in the number of new cases.

Experts warn that new variants, which have also been spotted in Turkey, can immediately turn the tide if people abandon the measures in the post-lockdown era. Turkey has been recording 13,000 new cases in the last days of the lockdown, marking a drastic decrease from 60,000 in fewer than six weeks.

However, even 13,000 is a high number and can lead to a new peak, according to the experts, who suggest that the government should ease the restrictions only after the number of the daily new cases stays under 1,000.

In the meantime, the vaccination campaign has lost its impetus due to the insufficient supply of the vaccine. Turkey is waiting to get 50 million doses from Russia until the end of this month and more from China and Germany in June. The normalization process will be implemented more efficiently in the case of the massive inoculation of members of the public. Currently, only around 10 percent of Turkey’s population could get a second dose of the vaccine.

Small shopkeepers, craftsmen, and millions of workers employed in the service sector have greatly suffered from the lockdown, eagerly waiting for the reopening to happen as soon as possible.

Relatedly, the tourism sector is awaiting a return to normalcy for at least domestic tourists. With the closure of schools, internal tourism is expected to revive although the sector’s priority is to host foreign tourists.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry has accelerated its efforts to convince governments that Turkey is offering safe tourism, promising to vaccinate all its tourism staff. Russia’s temporary ban ends on June 1, but can be prolonged.

The EU has not given a green light to Turkey while other Mediterranean countries seem to be one step ahead of Turkey.

It seems Turkey is lagging behind its competitors but still has a chance to compensate in the second half of the tourism season.

Turkey’s pursuing a more scientific path when it comes to impose and lift restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic will be a determinant to this.

Serkan Demirtaş,