22 March 2020

Turkey vs. COVID-19: "the problem is global; the fight is national"

Andreea Stoian Karadeli

Turkey recorded the first death following COVID-19 infection on Tuesday, 17th of March. Despite the strict measures taken long before other states did, the number of patients found positive is alarming: from 1 case on March 11, to 670 cases on Friday, March 20. Like the entire world, Turkey is fighting a heavy battle with the COVID-19 virus, but it does so with dignity and empathy, in the most transparent way to the population, under the motto "the problem is global; the fight is national".

Image source: Profi Media

Along with the committee created especially for the current situation, the Minister of Health, Fahrettin Koca, has shown professionalism throughout this period, taking the necessary measures and delaying, as much as possible, the occurrence of the infestation with Covid-19 on the Turkish territory, despite its proximity to Iran. On Tuesday night, Minister Koca showed that, above any other political function, he remains the doctor who knows the value of each human life. As such, the empathy with which he announced the first death, downgraded many officials in the states of the European Union, which proved to be weaker in the face of a virus than any patient in its territory. At midnight, Minister Koca, visibly affected and very tired, passed as usual in front of the cameras and made the announcement: "I lost my first patient from Covid-19. He was 89 years old and had contacted the virus from a Chinese citizen. Condolences to the family and to all the relatives. "

The route followed by Turkey since the first cases announced in China and later in Iran and Italy, reflects the awareness of the government in dealing with the great danger of Covid-19.  Measures such as stopping flights to the affected areas, disinfection of public spaces and public transport, television debates with correct information on Covid-19, ongoing information from the Ministry of Health are just some of the key elements of Turkey's counter-virus strategy.

In a review of the most important measures taken by the Turkish state so far, it can be recalled:

January 22 - The Minister of Health, following the convening of the committee set up specifically on Covid-19, announced that Turkey is ready for possible infestations and that it has all the necessary resources (equipment and medicines) to cope with an epidemic, in the worst-case scenario. In all the airports in Turkey, thermal cameras have been installed to identify the infested persons.

January 24 - The medical personnel became active full-time 24/24 at all border-crossing points and airports. For all flights from China, separate spaces for medical check-in and high-performance thermal cameras were provided.

February 1 - Turkey brought 42 people to Wuhan province into the country and quarantined them.

February 3 - All flights with China were stopped.

February 6 - The thermal cameras have come into operation for all flights.

February 11 - Turkey announced the launch of a test kit developed by its researchers, which can identify the virus in 90-120 minutes.

February 21 - Due to the rapid evolution of the virus in Iran, it is forbidden for all travelers from the region to enter the country.

February 23 - The borders between Turkey and Iran have been closed.

February 27 - At the border-crossing points between Turkey - Iran, in Agri, Van, Dilucu and Hakkari points, field hospitals were organized.

February 29 - Flights to and from China, Iran, Iraq, South Korea and Italy were stopped. Field hospitals were created at eight border points between Turkey and Georgia.

March 2 - It has been decided that all those returning from the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia (25,000) will receive a medical examination and the 14-day quarantine rule has been instituted.

March 6 - The entry of foreign nationals who have traveled to Italy in the last 14 days was forbidden, and for the Turkish citizens returning from abroad, the quarantine obligation for 14 days was established.

March 11 - The first case of Covid-19 was registered in a patient traveling to Europe.

March 12 - The schools were closed for a minimum of one week in school and high school education and a minimum of three weeks in university education. All sporting events will be held without spectators until the end of April. President Erdogan canceled his visits abroad. Civil servants can travel abroad only with a special permit.

March 13 - Flights from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands have been suspended. Nurseries and children's clubs have been closed up to an indefinite date.

March 14 - Georgia-Sarp Border Point was closed on both sides by travelers. The consulting line for COVID-19 - ALO184 has been opened.

March 15 - Flights to and from Germany, Spain, France, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands have closed. All Turkish citizens on the territory of these countries for a short period of time had the opportunity to contact the embassies and request to be brought to Turkey on special flights. Night clubs and bars are closed for an indefinite period.

March 16 – Public places like theaters, concert halls, cinemas, ceremonial halls, restaurants / cafes, casinos, bars, taverns, internet cafes, games rooms, playgrounds (including shopping centers and restaurants), clubs, amusement parks, swimming pools, Turkish baths and spas, gyms were closed down for an indefinite period of time.

March 17 - Flights to and from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have stopped.

March 18 – An important meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish officials on the current situation regarding Covid-19 is taken place. The president holds a press statement regarding the new measures taken by the Turkish state, especially in terms of economic measures.

On Wednesday, March 18, President Erdogan stressed the importance of the economic framework for the period ahead and presented the twenty main measures, including raising pensions, helping the private sector to not make redundancies, delaying credit payments for companies and firms, and payment of pensions to the elderly by banks directly at home. At the same time, the Turkish president asked the population to stay home during this period to reduce the danger of Covid-19.

The threat, at this moment, is represented by those who returned from the pilgrimage in February and were not quarantined as those who returned in the past two weeks. They could spread the virus to the population. At the same time, following the Idlib conflict, thousands of refugees crossed the border into Turkey. Given that the testing for Covid-19 in Syria does not exist, the new refugees could carry the virus - a real danger to the Turkish population. With a population of over 80 million inhabitants, the Turkish government has so far proved aware of the Covid-19 threat. But the fight has just begun...