It has been over a year since the first COVID-19 case popped up in March 2020. Over this period, Turkey has borne witness to various waves and effects of the pandemic. Nevertheless, we gained a rich experience in which society’s reactions also diverged greatly.
As time passes and case numbers increase, the pandemic is becoming a routine of our everyday life, while its significance atrophies. As of April 8, Turkey has reached a record high in COVID-19 case numbers and daily deaths. Yesterday, 55,941 cases and 258 deaths were recorded, drawing greater attention as the numbers peaked.
Despite this, it is not possible to say that an atmosphere of panic ensued and more awareness developed as a result of reaching such a record. In contrast to the great fear and concern displayed against the much lower case rate and death numbers in the initial stages, these figures do not stir the nation in the slightest today.
On the contrary, it seems as though all the results of the pandemic have been accepted by society in everyday life. People are in the “if we die, so be it” mode, or they are trying to further embrace the nonchalance that “nothing will happen” to them despite high number of cases and deaths that are exponentially increasing.
Surely the flexibility and adjusting of human behavior to the criticality of the pandemic’s results, their adaptation and exasperation, then becoming completely insensitive plays an important role in this. The more the pandemic’s efficacy is prolonged, the greater the chances that the public will adopt this blase attitude. Furthermore, the health system in Turkey was exceptionally successful in the sense that it has not become paralyzed in the face of all these cases and, in fact, has shown extraordinarily high-quality performance despite increasing numbers.
There is no doubt that the public’s response to the policies followed with respect to skyrocketing cases are no less effective than the policies followed. In periods following complete lockdown in Turkey, cases were reduced to a certain number. However, this cannot be sustained any further both because of society’s “tolerance” and the “nature of the case.”
The public cannot tolerate any further lockdowns, because it is not possible to sustain any sort of social life or economic activity under these conditions. The lockdowns are becoming increasingly challenging despite the economic support provided by the government. The fact that the nature of the pandemic is not limited to Turkey alone and that the risk of infection is not decreasing shows that it will continue to be a part of our lives and, as a matter of fact, dominate our lives for a long period of time.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which is following policies and data worldwide on a daily basis, also confirms that the policies followed by the health ministry in this regard are still exemplary policies for the world. The criticisms thrown out by the country’s opposition, which did not articulate a single word of appreciation despite Turkey’s exceptional success since the very beginning, over the current increase in case numbers, reflects their relentless opportunism. As a result, they are all equally benefiting from these health policies, while even they have no tolerance left to implement the policies advised against this pandemic. They do not refrain from demonstrating the greatest violations of measures either. The same insensitivity and acclimatization of the situation has developed in everyone, because this pandemic has caught us all in our most human of states.
Of course, the social impact of this needs to be analyzed, and the practices that can be implemented must not be neglected. However, despite everything, Turkey’s successful policies in this regard continue to be praised around the world, and the self-sacrificing efforts of all members of the country’s national health sector has a great role in this.
Turkish Health Minister Dr. Fahrettin Koca last week attended WHO’s press conference as a guest of the organization’s general director. He was the only health minister invited in this context. Turkey’s visible efforts in the fight against the pandemic and its health policies were contributing factors of this invitation. Additionally, Turkey presented to WHO the idea to declare 2021 the year of health workers worldwide, and made great efforts to have it passed. Hence, WHO declared 2021 the year of health workers.
Furthermore, Minister Koca provided details in the press conference regarding vaccinations. Turkey is still in the lead among non-vaccine producing countries in the race to inoculate citizens. For example, we never hear anything about this figure from the critics either. Also, Turkey completed the vaccination process of about 1.1 million health workers in a short period of 45 days.
Koca stated that the first round of vaccinations will be completed as of this summer, and that we have 18 vaccines on the list of vaccines recorded by WHO.
One other very important matter emphasized by Koca, as frequently expressed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as well, is the accessibility of the vaccine for all of humanity. Koca reiterated Erdoğan’s statement that almost 100 countries around the world are yet to access the vaccine, and that once the local vaccine is produced, it will be offered to all of humanity at the most suitable of conditions, highlighting the necessity of paving the way for every country worldwide to produce the vaccines free of any claim of intellectual property.
Sadly the vaccines are seen as commercial goods alone, and developed countries have turned this into an opportunity to make money.
However, unless it is eliminated all over the world, the pandemic will continue to pose a threat for all. If this pandemic is going to serve as a lesson or provide any good to humanity – and it should – then let it be this.