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Turkey acted faster than Europe in tackling COVID-19

While European countries began taking major steps within 39-54 days after their first cases, Turkey acted in first few days

Emre Aytekin   | 09.04.2020
Turkey acted faster than Europe in tackling COVID-19


Turkey took measures to prevent a coronavirus pandemic faster than European countries.

The country took precautions within the first few days after its first cases of the novel coronavirus were detected, while European countries began taking measures within 39-54 days.

Since emerging in China last December and making its way across the globe, the virus is now in many countries, prompting them to take measures to reduce mass gatherings and events to stop it from spreading.

Among the first measures taken to tackle the virus were suspending classes at schools and universities and temporarily closing cafes, bars and restaurants, entertainment centers, malls, libraries, and places of worship.

People were urged to stay home, avoid social contact, and work remotely if possible.

Partial curfews and quarantine measures were implemented and transportation among cities was restricted.

France confirmed its first coronavirus case on Jan. 24 and Germany on Jan. 28, followed by Italy, Spain, and the U.K. on Jan. 31.

The first case in Turkey was confirmed on March 11.  


Suspending schools and universities

One of the first measures was the closing of schools and universities to allow students to distance themselves from others to slow the spread of the virus.

Turkey closed its schools on March 12, a day after its first case was confirmed, while Italy did so after 39 days, Spain 40 days, the U.K. 47 days, and Germany and France 49 days.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan summoned his Cabinet on March 12. Following their meeting, it was announced that primary and secondary schools would be closed for two weeks and universities for three weeks from March 16.

The country's Education Minister Ziya Selcuk announced that primary and secondary schools would start distance education on March 23. Turkey's public broadcaster TRT produced a new channel for this purpose.

Yekta Sarac, head of the Council of Higher Education, announced that universities would be closed for the spring term except for digital and remote education due to the pandemic.  

Closing public places temporarily

The temporary closure of public places such as cafes, bars and restaurants, entertainment centers, malls, libraries, and places of worship was one of the first measures taken.

Turkey took measures in this regard one to four days after its first case was confirmed, while Italy did so after 41 days, Spain 43 days, Germany 48 days, the U.K. 49 days, and France 50 days.

Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry announced that all libraries would be closed between March 16-30.

The Interior Ministry also announced through a circular on March 15 that all bars and nightclubs would be closed from March 16.

On March 16, the ministry said in a circular that cafes, cinemas, and gyms would also be closed.

On March 21, it decided to close barber shops, coiffeurs, and beauty shops, and on March 24, it granted permission to supermarkets to open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, even though no decisions were taken on malls, most stores decided to close for the sake of public health on March 21.

In Italy, most shopping malls closed on March 10 except for food retailers and pharmacies. In Spain and France on March 14 and in Germany on March 16, all stores closed as part of the state of emergency measures, which also forced malls to close their doors. In the U.K., shopping mall chains insisted on not closing despite other measures taken and pressure from employees.

Measures on places of worship

The Presidency of Religious Affairs announced on March 16 the suspension of congregational prayers, including Friday prayers, in mosques throughout the country due to the epidemic.

Friday prayers were performed in Ankara Millet Mosque on March 27 and Ankara Ahmed Hamdi Akseki Mosque on April 3 with limited participation. In a statement, the Presidency of Religious Affairs said the practice aims to maintain the continuity of Friday sermons by continuing Friday prayers representatively with minimum participation.

In Italy, the Vatican closed 900 Catholic churches in the city of Rome between March 13 and April 3, while Sunday services were suspended. Churches in Spain and France took similar measures after March 14.

Under an agreement reached between the federal government and state administrations in Germany on March 16, it was decided to ban gatherings in all places of worship.

On March 24, the U.K. decided to close all mosques, churches, and synagogues to worshipers and clergymen.

Restriction of public ‘collective activities’

The COVID-19 outbreak also led countries to ban and restrict public collective events.

In this context, concerts and other arts and cultural events and sports competitions were postponed.

Turkey took the first step in this area by deciding to hold all sports events without spectators beginning March 12, one day after its first coronavirus case was detected.

Leagues suspended

Similar measures were taken 39 days after the first case in Italy, 41 days in Spain, 42 days in the U.K., 45 days in Germany and 48 days in France.

During these dates, the Serie A in Italy, La Liga in Spain, English Premier League, the Bundesliga in Germany, and Ligue 1 in France were all suspended.

Turkey’s Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu announced on March 19 that football, basketball, volleyball, and handball leagues had been postponed.

In a presidential decree published on March 20, it was announced that all scientific, cultural and artistic meetings and events were postponed until the end of April.

Travel and transportation restrictions

Countries’ measures against the COVID-19 outbreak have also included travel and transportation restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus as well as the closing of borders and halting of flights.

Turkey already stopped flights to China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, and Iraq, while it announced that it would stop all flights to nine more countries including Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, and the Netherlands starting from March 17, two days after the first cases occurred in the country on March 13.

On March 14, Turkey halted land and air transportation with Azerbaijan.

Turkey and Georgia also closed the Sarp border crossing.

On March 16, Turkey imposed flight bans on six more countries including England, Ireland, Switzerland, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Transport and Infrastructure Ministry announced that flights to 46 countries had been stopped on March 21. As a result, the number of countries that Turkey stopped flights to rose to 68.

Extensive restrictions on traveling abroad began to be discussed 39 days after the first coronavirus cases were detected in Italy and Germany, 43 days in Spain, 53 days in the U.K., and 53 days in France.

President Erdogan announced on March 27 that all international flights had been halted and intercity travel would be conducted with the permission of the governorships. He also said vehicle entry and exit to 30 metropolitan cities including the Black Sea province of Zonguldak were stopped on April 3.

Quarantine measures and partial curfews

Some of the most critical measures taken against the outbreak were encouraging people to stay in their homes unless they are obliged to travel, quarantining people suspected of having the coronavirus and implementing national or regional curfews.

On March 13, two days after Turkey’s first case was detected, the Youth and Sports Ministry announced that 10,330 citizens returning from the Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia were quarantined in dormitories.

Besides, quarantine measures were implemented on people returning from other countries and the ministry said on March 23 that the number of citizens coming from abroad and quarantined at home totaled 11,269.

On March 21, the Interior Ministry imposed a curfew on people over the age of 65 and those suffering from chronic illnesses as they are in the risk group from the COVID-19.

On April 3, the partial curfew was extended to cover those under the age of 20, and it became mandatory for all citizens to wear masks in public places.

Comprehensive quarantine and isolation measures started to be applied 38 days after the first coronavirus case occurred in Italy, 43 days later in Spain, 52 days in the U.K., 53 days in France, and 54 days in Germany.

 *Writing by Davut Demircan and Seda Sevencan

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