Life returning to normal in Turkey after reopening
Normalcy is returning to Turkey’s daily life as restaurants, cafes and parks reopened and domestic flights resumed as authorities say the coronavirus is now under control.
In fact, the government has been gradually rolling back the restrictions, which started to be implemented some three months ago to curb the spread of the coronavirus, for the past few weeks, but President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 28 announced a set of more comprehensive actions toward the country’s “new normal.”
As part of the normalization phase, gyms and swimming pools, beaches, parks, libraries and museums also resumed operations on June 1.
Traffic was visibly heavier, particularly in large cities Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, compared with previous days.
People swarmed the streets, public transportation vehicles and parks across the country.
Customers have started to return to restaurants and cafes on the first day of the normalization. But restaurants and cafes are now serving their guests under strict rules advised by the Health Ministry.
Tables are at least 1.5 meters apart from each other. Staff are required to wear face masks and gloves at all times when serving customers. Temperatures of customers, who also must have protective face masks on, are measured when entering the venues.
Under the new rules, restaurants and cafes will serve until 10 p.m.
As part of the reopening, the government also lifted all inter-city travel restrictions which were first imposed across 31 provinces in early April. The curbs were later eased to cover only 15 provinces, including Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir. Inter-city bus stations and airports were crowded with passengers on the first day of the full-scale normalization.
Airlines also resumed their domestic flights as of June 1 after weeks of hiatus.
Turkish Airlines launched its first flight from Istanbul Airport to Ankara at 10 a.m., while Pegasus Airlines flew from Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport to İzmir.
SunExpress’s first scheduled flight was from İzmir to Antalya.
Ahead of the recommencing of flights, the country’s civil aviation authority already unveiled a set of rules to be implemented in airports which are part of the pandemic certification scheme designed to ensure that airports are taking all necessary precautions against COVID-19.
But as the country moves toward a controlled social life under eased measures, some of the restrictions will remain in place on the movements of those aged over 65 and under 18. Children under age 18 can go out on Wednesdays and Fridays between 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Civil servants on administrative leave or working remotely also returned to their offices.
'All health measures in place for air travel'
In the meantime, Transport and Infrastructure Minister said on June 1 that all preventive health measures necessary for air travel are in place,.
Speaking at a ceremony before the first commercial flight in months from Istanbul left for capital Ankara, Adil Karaismailoğlu said important steps were taken by the government in order to return to normal days with respect to road, rail and air travel.
"For the past month, we have been working hard to make the necessary preparations for the airports," he said.
Airports taking preventive health measures will document their status by getting a certification, he added.
The certificate includes not only the airport and terminal operators and ground handling companies, but also the transportation vehicles that bring passengers to the airport, and the necessary measures to be taken by each institution and organization, including passengers.
The certification process of six airports - Istanbul, Sabiha Gökçen, Esenboğa, İzmir Adnan Menderes, Antalya and Trabzon - has been completed thus far, the minister added.
"Starting today, we are moving to a new period of physical distancing at all stages of the journey, from entry to airports to exit at the destination," Karaismailoğlu said.
He said that wearing masks, full compliance with social distancing, taking personal and institutional hygiene measures, and employing protective equipment are the four elements the government will never compromise at airports against the pandemic.
"We share the measures we take at our airports with all countries. Our negotiations and efforts to restart international flights continue," he concluded.