Turkey mulls gradual reopening starting from June
The Turkish government is drawing a substantial road map for a gradual normalization and to ease measures taken to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, with preparations to reopen the country by June in a step-by-step long-term approach.
With Turkey beginning to observe a fall in the number of new infected cases, as suggested by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, an intergovernmental work under the leadership of Vice President Fuat Oktay is being carried out to plan the phases of the reopening of the country in line with the recommendations of the Science Board.
“Some opinions were received from the Science Board on which measures the normalization will materialize. These opinions will be discussed at related institutions before being announced,” Koca told reporters on late April 29. He emphasized that the normalization program will be publicized in accordance with the course of the pandemic by enduring social distancing measures in May.
Turkey has started to impose measures after it spotted its first COVID-19 case on March 11 which were followed with more restrictions, including weekend curfews, curfew for elderly and youngsters, intercity travels and so on. Mosques, schools, malls, restaurants, cafes and barber shops are closed, with constant calls being made for people to abide by social distancing rules.
Impacts of the measures will be observed in May
According to sources, the normalization process will be based on four phases and some parts of it are expected to be announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the next cabinet meeting. The first phase throughout May will be a sort of preparatory period for observing the impacts of the measures on the pace of the spread of outbreak.
Weekend curfews will continue in May, as Erdoğan said earlier, with plans to include May 19 national holiday to a four-day lockdown starting from May 16 as well as Eid al-Fitr between May 23 and May 27, which follows the holy month of Ramadan.
Malls would reopen in mid-May on the condition that the principles of the social distancing will be fully implemented by all the shops and that the playgrounds and the food courts will remain to be closed.
Allowing the elderly people to go out of their houses for a few hours during the weekend curfews is also an issue being discussed at the Science Board, Koca said, although there is still no agreement on it.
Gradual reopening by June
The government’s plan it to activate the second phase by the end of Eid al-Fitr and in the early days of June until September. Turkish Airlines is expected to begin its operations with limited foreign flights by May 28 and intercity travel ban would be lifted in some provinces in order to boost the domestic tourism, which will play an important role in re-energizing the Turkish economy in the absence of foreign tourists. Hotels and resorts would start to operate under certain conditions and regulations set by the Tourism Ministry.
Normalization will not take the same pace in every part of the country, Koca said.
“Measures can be removed more quickly in cities with fewer cases in the coming period. This is an approach that can be followed in line with the course of the cases and the suggestions of the Science Board,” he added.
Some 60 percent of around 120,000 COVID-19 cases has been detected in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest metropole with 20 million population, while some of the cities have just a few cases.
The second phase will observe a dynamic process and all the steps for the reopening will be calculated in line with the course of the spread of the virus in a bid to avoid a second wave of the pandemic. Sportive activities could also be resumed without spectators if the Science Board recommends.
Wearing masks, following the rules of social distancing and protecting hygiene will become the new normal during the second phase.
From September to end of 2020
The third phase will begin as the summer ends on Aug. 31. More measures are believed to be lifted while the schools and universities would reopen in this period. Government offices will return to their normal routine and a travel ban within the country could be lifted in the event of a downfall in the pace of the spread of the virus.
The fourth phase will begin in January 2021 and will last until a vaccine against the COVID-19 is developed.