Normalization must be gradual

Normalization must be gradual

The Family, Labor and Social Policies Ministry issued a new circular on how public and private offices should proceed into the “new normal.” People formed long queues in front of shopping malls. According to reports in the media, in the first two days since the shopping malls were reopened, 2.4 million people passed through the malls’ revolving doors. Well, if most of the big brands asking for time until June 1 to reopen their shops in malls could not help to defuse the revival of the shopping mall frenzy in the Turkish society, there is a serious situation ahead.

From senior doctors in the country to “strategists,” who somehow claim to have an idea about fighting terrorism, refugees and social disasters all at the same, many agree that particularly shopping centers and places with air conditioning might be very dangerous during this pandemic period. They claim air conditioners in such huge buildings don’t allow fresh air circulation but circulate the air inside the building to minimize costs. Is that right?

Many countries have started introducing step-by-step what the new normal ought to be. Could it be called “normalization?” Probably, but a different sort of normalization. Countries, including Turkey, started removing some tight pandemic measures. Some, like South Korea, took a step back after seeing the normalization steps backfired and there was a surge in the number of people affected by the virus. Some still believe, even if they no longer say it publicly, that when at least 60 percent of the people somehow acquired antibodies against the virus, the problem might be over without further devastating the national and global economies. Opponents, of course, counterattack that the “survival of the fittest” mentality might produce a huge death toll. I fully agree. On the other hand, confining people into their homes might end in a double disaster. Firstly, those groups confined to their houses might become particularly vulnerable as they might not be able to acquire antibody at all. Secondly, if lockout continued for a very long period economies that started to develop serious ailments might move into a meltdown period.

The circular issued by the ministry, and a yet to be confirmed circular alleged to be outlining the step-by-step new normalization President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has decided on demonstrates that if no major road accident impairs the plan Turkey might move to full new normalcy by July 1 and restore full normalcy towards the end of the year in a phased exercise, starting from September.

Some 2.4 million people visiting the malls in first two days of reopening, huge crowds in main arteries of Istanbul, Ankara, the western province of İzmir as well as many smaller cities are all signs that if authorities, and of course the media, cannot explain to people adequately what might the “second wave” be, I am afraid the much feared road accident might become inescapable.

The government is under pressure to ease restrictions during the upcoming Eid al-Fitr period. For economic reasons many concessions, like allowing people from more contaminated major cities to travel to Black Sea tea production areas, were made. If these compromises from the determination to fight the deadly virus pandemic through staying home continues without achieving a serious and sufficient virus-free contamination period I am afraid we might face even darker days.

In North Cyprus the situation is slightly better. Because of the effective application of lockdown, for the past 20 days there has not been any new case. In the southern Greek Cypriot sector just this week four people lost their lives and scores were reported to have COVID-19. Yet, there have been pressures on the Turkish Cypriot government to open border gates with the south. Hoteliers, casino owners and tourism agencies are demanding resumption of flights. No one appears willing to embrace a gradual normalization.

Yet, unfortunately we all should bear in mind that all this trouble started with one single case.