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BLOG Life In Turkey During The Covid-19 Pandemic

25 March 2020 / Lifestyle

One of the first questions many people ask when considering a move overseas is how they’ll cope if their health deteriorates. With Turkey reporting increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections, both locals and expats alike are having to adapt to new restrictions and rely on extended support networks.

The Turkish authorities have been praised for their quick reaction to the pandemic, which included the prompt closure of bars and restaurants, shutting mosques and schools, and screening all new arrivals through the country’s borders.

Since then, as the situation continues to escalate, those aged 65 and with chronic health issues have been banned from leaving their homes. Many shops, businesses and malls have closed their doors for the foreseeable future, and everyone is being urged to restrict social contact and avoid non-essential outings.

Life has certainly changed from the carefree existence most people imagine expats enjoy, but it’s at times like this our resilience comes to the fore – most are embracing the new normal admirably.

Life for the Over-65s

Senior citizens, along with people of any age suffering from chronic health conditions, are confined to their homes. Those who refuse to comply can be fined up 3,150TRY (around £415 at time of writing). While this may seem daunting, both local communities and the authorities are doing their best to ensure everyone’s needs are met.

Official helplines put callers in touch with English-speaking support, where they can request services from transport to a medical appointment to assistance with day-to-day needs such as food shopping or an accompanied visit to the ATM.

In many areas, online groups have been set up where those under curfew can ask for help with buying groceries, collecting medication or other everyday tasks they would normally do themselves.

Shopping and Essential Services

Some countries have reported panic-buying, empty supermarkets and people fighting over the last bag of pasta. Luckily, that hasn’t happened so far in Turkey and the shelves remain well-stocked. Supermarkets have reduced their opening hours and are limiting the number of people allowed through the doors at any one time. Most also have hand sanitiser available as you enter and will only accept card payments to avoid handling cash.

Banks have also cut their opening times, and many have increased ATM withdrawal limits. They have also extended online services to allow free-of-charge transactions and transfers, meaning fewer people need to visit a branch in person.

Pharmacies, too, have strict hygiene practices in place and will usually only allow one person inside at a time. Those waiting to enter are encouraged to maintain a strict distance from others in the queue.

And what about the markets, those traditionally lively hubs of chatter and activity? They are still open, but everyone is taking precautions. Fresh produce is pre-bagged, rather than buyers selecting their own. Stallholders wear masks and surgical gloves, as do many shoppers. Fewer people linger to socialise, and many try and maintain a safe distance from those around them.

Getting from A to B

While public transport is still running, the Turkish Interior Ministry has said they can only take half their capacity to allow for distancing between passengers. In some places, dolmuş drivers will no longer accept cash – only prepaid kentkart or contactless debit or credit cards.

Belediye workers can be seen spraying the streets with disinfectant, trying to keep the environment as germ-free as possible to restrict the spread of Covid-19. The streets are much quieter, not just because so many shops and businesses are closed, but because people realise it’s safer to stay indoors. Playparks and recreation areas are mainly deserted.

We’re All in This Together

Despite the horror and heartache caused by Covid-19, despite the worries everyone has and the changes it continues to bring, there’s an underlying feeling of togetherness. Everyone recognises the need to cooperate, to look out for each other, and do whatever is necessary to help get life back to some kind of normality.

Each evening at 9pm, Turkish citizens and expats alike take to their balconies to clap, whistle and cheer in recognition of the country’s health workers, who put themselves on the line every day to protect and save others.

The traditional hug and kiss on each cheek no longer applies when people meet. Instead, they retain a safe distance and instead imitate President Erdoğan, placing a hand on their hearts and saying “Güvende kal” (stay safe).

Looking To The Future

The Antalya province is facing tough times, socially and economically, during the Covid-19 crisis. Everyone is doing their best to stay strong and look forward to the day when we can start to get back to normal. If you dream of a life in the sun once the current situation is behind us, take a look at our online guides to learn more about life in this beautiful place, and feel free to contact us if we can help you further.

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