Turkish businesses welcome easing of Covid-19 restrictions

In Turkey’s capital city Ankara, there is a glimmer of hope among businesses following the partial easing of months-long coronavirus restrictions.

“It has been very rough in the past months, we lost a lot of customers and barely tried to survive with takeaways,” Seref Sanli, manager of a small restaurant, told Xinhua.

The business, which offers traditional Turkish dishes, is located in the residential and commercial Kucukesat district, home to many restaurants, cafes and bars.

Like plenty of others, it had been forced to close for over three months because of stricter health measures and curfews imposed following a new surge of Covid-19 infections in early December last year.

“Takeaways represent only a fraction of our overall business, so we are happy to welcome again customers inside,” Sanli said, adding that they are trying to “stay positive” with a mass vaccination program launched in mid-January.

Restaurants and cafes suffered serious financial losses in the past months and some have closed down. While bars and nightclubs will be the last places to be reopened in June, according to press reports.

Turkey received its first shipment of China-made Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines on December 30, 2020 and gave them an emergency use approval.

Nearly nine million people have now received the vaccine as part of the drive. Healthcare workers and senior citizens, who were first to receive jabs last month, started receiving their second doses.

The country has moved to the next phase of the vaccination plan, inoculating teachers as schools are gradually reopening. Next in line are soldiers, police officers and people working in sectors critical for daily life, from logistics to the food sector.

“We will operate at reduced capacity of 50 per cent but at least we will reopen and that’s the most important thing,” Sanli added.

In a nearby trendy coffeehouse, the mood is also upbeat.

“We were selling takeaways, but the human interaction in the shop is essential. We want to be close to our customers,” Hakan, one of the waiters, told Xinhua.

Hakan explained that one of the three waiters had to be laid off temporarily. “It was a challenging period. We have a duty to ensure costumer safety, so we will abide by all safety measures. We don’t want another shutdown if infections increase,” he said.

Businesses are allowed to welcome customers back inside with restrictions in line with a “controlled normalization” announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following a cabinet meeting on Monday evening.

The Turkish leader detailed a plan towards a gradual normalization on a local basis according to the number of infections. Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s two biggest cities with a combined population of 20 million, are among them.

Restaurants and cafes are allowed to welcome customers between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Night curfews will remain across the country.

Recent figures showed a surge in Covid-19 cases in the nation’s northeastern Black Sea provinces and in some central provinces, which were left out of the normalization plan.

Once every two weeks, the restrictions will be revised based on the course of the cases, Erdogan explained.

The country has reported over 2.7 million cases since March last year and more than 28,700 deaths.

With restrictions relaxing, health experts caution not to let your guard down as the country reported 10,000 daily cases on Tuesday.