What’s next in Turkey’s fight against COVID-19?
It’s been more than a month since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, which has already infected more than 1.7 million people and killed around 110,000 across the globe.
Having announced its first novel coronavirus case on the same day the WHO declared the pandemic, Turkey is getting its own share from the outbreak with more than 50,000 people infected and more than a 1,000 dead.
On April 11 alone, Turkey detected 5,138 new cases out of 33,170 tests, indicating a slightly less than 15 percent daily increase in the number of confirmed cases. This picture reveals that social distancing measures taken to date were not that effective in stemming the spread of the virus.
A partial lockdown imposed for 31 cities – with 63 million citizens in total – during the past weekend should be considered as the beginning of the second-phase measures to be implemented in the coming period.
The Turkish cabinet, at a weekly meeting on April 13, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will make a general assessment on the fight against the outbreak and discuss the potential new measures.
First, the continuation of the weekend lockdowns is highly probable while some members of the Science Board propose a three-day lockdown if the government cannot impose a full curfew. Plus, provincial pandemic boards will be more active in the coming period by
putting some high-risk districts in quarantine.
One of the concerns for the coming period is the warming of the weather. It will be quite difficult to keep people at home as the days will be hotter and sunny, particularly in the western parts of the Anatolia and along the seashore.
According to a study, weekdays have observed that around 85 percent of the people abided by the social distancing measures and stayed home, but this figure was recorded as around 70 percent during the weekends. With the good weather, the members of the Science Board are more concerned that the virus will find more victims in the coming weeks. In this regard, the only way to avoid it is to toughen measures to keep people home.
Another concern is the fact that Turkish people lack self-discipline and are impatient. With the prolongation of the process, more people would tend to disobey the rules and be overcome by languor. These are major problems ahead in the fight against the virus.
In addition to these said concerns, the opposition and dissenting medical experts cite important strategical mistakes on the government’s methods against the coronavirus. As they have long been pressing on the government for a complete lockdown, the weekend curfew and the timing of the announcement of the curfew have drawn a lot of reaction.
Scientifically, a two-day curfew would be futile, according to medical experts, suggesting that a lockdown should be at least 14 days, which is the incubation period of the virus. Plus, many criticized the Interior Ministry for announcing the curfew only two hours before it starts, which triggered panic-buying in many places at the expense of breaching social distancing measures.
All these show that it would be the right time for the government to recalibrate its strategy on the fight against the
coronavirus, both scientifically and methodologically.