Turkey, Erdoğan's speech

Erdoğan asks Turks to stay at home to stop the coronavirus

“We do not know how this virus will affect humanity. We are entering a new era that will bring radical changes,” warned Erdoğan, who announced measures and aid to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked citizens on Wednesday in a televised message not to leave their homes except out of necessity or in an emergency in an attempt to stem the spread of the dreaded coronavirus in Turkey, where it has already caused two deaths. At the same time, it announced numerous measures to mitigate the effects of this crisis on the Turkish economy.

Erdoğan made these statements after convening an emergency meeting on Wednesday with the assistance of senior government officials and businessmen, in order to coordinate the measures to be taken against COVID-19. The Turkish president stated that if citizens comply with the authorities’ containment and precautionary measures, it will only take three weeks to overcome this crisis.

Pandemics have (now) a relatively lower death rate compared to other diseases, thanks to health prevention services and advances in the pharmaceutical sector. Still, they have the potential to cause mass deaths if preventive measures are not taken. We need to take quick and effective measures,” Erdoğan explained during his speech to the nation.

“We are entering a new era”

“We do not know how this virus will affect humanity. We are entering a new era that will probably bring radical changes in the global, economic, political and social order,” warned the Turkish president, criticising other countries that he accused – without naming them – of having let the virus spread freely by not taking action in time.

However, Erdoğan assured that Turkey is in an advantageous situation compared to other countries thanks to the reforms carried out in its health system and health infrastructure. “Turkey has the best possible preparation for a situation like this,” he insisted. In fact, coincidentally, in April 2019 the Turkish Ministry of Health drew up a detailed preparedness plan for a hypothetical global flu pandemic.

The president repeated in his speech again many of the warnings already made by the Turkish Minister of Health, that on Wednesday night updated the COVID-19 figures, increasing the infections to 191 and confirming a second death from the coronavirus, a 61-year-old man who died in hospital.

“Healthy people can easily recover from this disease, but in those who have health problems, with a weak immune system, it can have deadly consequences. The best way to protect yourself from this disease, which does not have a vaccine or a definitive cure, is to curb the infection,” said Erdoğan.

“It is time to minimize our contact with the outside world”

“The best protection measures are those that each one takes personally. The measures are temporary, but if we comply with them, we can reduce the time that will be necessary to stay at home to just three weeks,” said the Turkish president. “I ask our people not to leave their homes as much as possible until the threat passes,” he stressed.

“The more we increase social distance, the more we reduce movement, the less the threat will be. It is time to minimise our contact with the outside world, it is time to stay home as much as possible,” Erdoğan repeatedly insisted.

“Everyone who does not have to go outside should stay home and should not have contact with anyone else. People who go to work should return home immediately after finishing their work, and should wash their hands and faces without touching no one before when going back home,” he added.

“Shaking hands, hugging or kissing hands is something that occupies an important place in our culture, but we need to delay such acts for a while. Until the danger of the outbreak is over, avoiding them should be enough. We have to express our love and admiration with gestures and with our words,” explained the president.

Turkey to provide masks and cologne to all over 65

Erdoğan, who recalled that the population that is 65 years of age or older is the one with the highest risk of dying from the coronavirus, urged these people to stay home and urged them to minimise contacts with other family members.

“Some European countries ignore the elderly and the disabled. On the contrary, we have them in high esteem. Our National Scientific Council has recommended that protective masks and cologne be given to all citizens over 65 years old. Deliveries will initially begin in Istanbul and Ankara,” Erdoğan announced, adding that state banks will hand over retirement money to those over 76 in their own homes.

The Turkish president also asked citizens not to go to hospitals except in an emergency, to prevent medical personnel from being overloaded with work and from saturating health services in case of an increase in infections.

100,000 million to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the economy

On the other hand, Erdoğan also announced a package of economic aid worth 100,000 million liras -about 14,000 million euros- to help alleviate the effects on the economy of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our highest priority is that production and employment are not interrupted. We will become stronger thanks to public and private solidarity. We are launching an aid package that will serve as a shield for our economy,” he explained. The measures announced include tax cuts for SMEs and private companies, as well as aid for low-income households, the elderly and retirees.

VAT on domestic air transport will also be reduced for 3 months from 18 to 1%; in addition, the payments of the credits of the companies that are affected by the virus will also be delayed for 3 months, and there will be more support measures for these companies, said Erdoğan.

Food supply guaranteed

For his part, the Minister of Agriculture and Forests of Turkey said in a statement on Wednesday that Turkey does not suffer from problems in production, storage or supply chain of basic food.

“The stocks of the Turkish Grain Administration (TMO) contain enough products to meet the needs of suppliers, businesses and consumers,” Bekir Pakdemirli said in a statement.

The Turkish minister insisted after the measures announced by Erdoğan that despite the crisis caused by the coronavirus, no food supply problems are expected in the coming days or months. In addition, he announced that 150 stores that the TMO has throughout the country will sell food directly to the public to ensure that citizens – especially those with fewer resources – can buy them at affordable prices.