ISTANBUL / ANKARA, April 9 (Reuters) – Red letters parading in front of Fikret Oluk’s bus read: “Stay home Turkey”. But the Istanbul driver said passengers ignore the rules and overcrowding, sometimes without masks, even when coronavirus infections explode.
Turkey – which has the highest level of daily new COVID-19 cases in Europe and the Middle East – again tightened measures last week to contain the rapid spread after calls for action from doctors and opposition politicians.
Among the rules is a limit of 69 passengers on the busy Oluk city bus route. When 89 are on board, he says he’s drawing the line.
âBut unfortunately people don’t listen. They attack us and put us in a difficult position,â said the 10-year-old driver.
“How not to be tense? Our lives currently depend on these masks. But unfortunately, just as people don’t think of themselves, they don’t think of us either,” he said.
Interviews with Turks who have received a vaccine and those awaiting one show a mixture of fear and frustration over record-breaking deaths and infections from COVID-19, which approached 56,000 on Thursday alone, and uneven compliance with rules. Read more
The head of the Turkish Physicians’ Association told Reuters she believes the biggest misstep of President Tayyip Erdogan’s government was to largely relax restrictions in March as the daily case count fell below 10 000. She said this sacrificed the gains made over the winter, calling the approach “social murder”.
“We called it ‘social murder’ because they already know what will cause these deaths, they have no preventive measures,” Sebnem Korucu Fincanci said, adding that intercity travel, manufacturing and public transport should be stopped. .
Erdogan and his government came under fire last month for a party convention with thousands of people, many of whom have been seen violating social distancing rules and not wearing or wearing masks inappropriately. Opposition parties and critics have accused Ankara of undermining efforts to fight infections. Read more
‘TO BE REALISTIC’
Nurettin Yigit, chief medical officer at a specially constructed pandemic hospital in Istanbul, said the impact on the health care system of the latest wave had been less than in previous waves and called the moment “unlucky.”
“As we started this controlled normalization, the entry of other mutations from other countries began,” he told Reuters as medical staff administered vaccines to patients. He attributed the increase in part to people traveling within the country.
Ankara blamed the coronavirus variants for the surge in infections, saying about 85% of total cases across the country are from the variant first identified in Britain, along with a lack of commitment to measures such as social distancing and the wearing of masks.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told the Hurriyet daily on Friday that the solution to the “serious increase” in infections was to speed up vaccinations, adding that he aimed to vaccinate all citizens over 20 years of age. here July.
Fincanci called Ankara’s vaccination goals unrealistic and criticized what she called the inaccurate reporting of the number of cases and deaths. “They have to be realistic, they have to be transparent,” she said.
Turkey has administered around 18 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far, roughly enough to cover around 11% of the population, according to a Reuters tally.
The government has dismissed criticism of its handling of the pandemic and the measures it has implemented, saying public health is the priority.
He has adopted new stay-at-home orders for weekends and will stop eating in restaurants from Tuesday for the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
But the country has remained largely open for business since last June, and many have taken to the streets and cafes as the weather warmed, worrying some who stayed home.
“I haven’t had tea in a cafe for 11 months. I don’t leave the house,” said Mehmet Tut, 62, sitting outside a hospital treatment room after receiving her first vaccine on Friday.
“We will always be careful while waiting for the second dose” even if others do not take enough precautions, he said. “They expect everything from the state, but it’s up to us to decide. If we’re careful, we won’t get sick.”
Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen, Bulent Usta and Mert Ozkan; Written by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien
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