Turkey, the country that breaks the physical distance rules with a curfew
Turkey has imposed a 48-hour curfew across 31 cities starting midnight on Friday. The reason for this decision was to contain the further spread of the novel coronavirus but with two-hours heads up, and the lack of proper communication about the scope of it caused panic across the country.
The Interior Ministry’s statement about the curfew came around 10 pm local time, and it immediately triggered panic buying. Hundreds of people raced to local grocery shops and bakeries, some of them were in their PJ’s and slippers. Physical distancing rules, which are essential to contain the spread of the virus, were cast away while people waited in long queues.
Sixty-seven years old Mrs. Leyla was walking home from the bakkal, a Turkish corner store, just a couple minutes after the curfew decision announced. “I wasn’t prepared,” she said. “When I heard it on TV, I scoured to the shop.” She was carrying two big bottles of water, a pack of flour, one loaf of bread, and a bag of sunflower seeds.
Turkish people are known for their “addiction” to nuts as snacks, and their favorite is sunflower seeds. Mrs. Leyla saw that I was staring at the seed pack and explained with a giggle, “It is for the stress.”
In front of the local bakery, a long queue formed, and people waited patiently while the four of the employees tried to figure out what to do inside. They looked anxious. Later, one of them said, “We weren’t informed, so there wasn’t enough bread for everyone” during his cigarette break. “It happened so abruptly. We heard it on TV, and immediately a lot of people searching for bread appeared on dark streets. When we realized that they were coming here, we started to bake.”
Bakeries were not the only ones who weren’t informed about the decision. Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul who had repeatedly called for a lockdown, and the other opposition mayors were also critical about the short notice. “No one informed us about this critical decision. We don’t even know which services we can continue tomorrow as a municipality,” Imamoglu said on his Twitter message.
In Salacak, a little neighborhood of Istanbul located on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus, people were on streets like other places, but they were relatively calm. According to videos that appeared on social media, it wasn’t the same everywhere. In Bayrampaşa, a suburban district of Istanbul, people started fighting while waiting in front of the bakery, and in Mardin, a southeastern border city, the police interfered in one of the queue fights that broke out between people waiting.
Turkish Medical Association (TMA) criticized how the decision was executed. “Without proper timing, curfew can cause more harm than benefits,” they stated on Twitter. Another point that TMA underscored was the disruption of the physical distancing rules. “A measure which was designated to keep the physical contact at minimum annihilated the basic rule for that,” they said.
Doctor Ateş Kara, a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Science Committee, talked to journalist Candaş Tolga Işık and said that the ones who went out for shopping should self-isolate themselves for two weeks. According to Kara, the risk has gained momentum with the people going out to shop in a hurry.
Turkey announced its first confirmed case of the virus just four weeks ago, but the outbreak has snowballed since then, with almost 50,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths reported.
While the number of cases and the death toll rises, the country has imposed a 48-hour curfew in 31 provinces beginning at midnight on Friday. The curfew is ordered in the capital Ankara, Adana, Antalya, Aydin, Balikesir, Bursa, Denizli, Diyarbakir, Erzurum, Eskisehir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Istanbul, Izmir, Kahramanmaras, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Malatya, Manisa, Mardin, Mersin, Mugla, Ordu, Sakarya, Samsun, Sanliurfa, Tekirdag, Trabzon, Van and Zonguldak, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu called on people to remain calm and urged against panic buying. While this statement was being made, a man in one of the videos from Ankara was seen covering his mouth with his hand intending to protect himself from the virus while he was waiting in a long queue. And another man in a dairy shop in Istanbul was asking the owner, “Is your yogurt good? If it’s good, I’m buying.”