(Edited to clarify that the measures to support employment were already in place.)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday announced two hospitals to be built in Istanbul as part of his government’s measures to combat the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
The hospitals, each with a 1000-bed capacity, will be built on plots at the Sancaktepe Military Airport and the now defunct Atatürk Airport in Yeşilköy district, and are expected to be completed within 45 days.
“We are determined to reduce people’s mobility to the minimum by making sure all citizens stay home, except for those who work and those who provide services,” news site T24 quoted the president as saying.
Turkey has put in place social support services for the elderly and the chronically ill, to be carried out via provincial governorates, the president said. Since the beginning of the pandemic, some 1.32 million people have received aid through this new programme.
Authorities may place complete quarantines on “buildings, streets, avenues, neighbourhoods, villages, hamlets and even entire districts, if they are at risk of spreading the disease,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan also announced a ban on the sale of the protective equipment. The measure follows a statement by the minister of commerce that face masks, now mandatory in public, could be easily be purchased in markets,
“The sale of masks is absolutely forbidden, and the masks distributed in bazaars and markets are for free. We have stockpiles for masks and production plans in place to last all our citizens until the pandemic is over,” Erdoğan said. “We, as the state, are determined to deliver masks to all our citizens free of charge.”
Turkey has not seen “any significant hurdles in medical services, procurement of food and cleaning supplies,” Erdoğan said.
The Turkish president reiterated an accusation against western countries, saying the global fight against the pandemic could have fared better “if at the beginning (Europe and the United States) had shown the sensibility we have shown.”
“A significant portion of our COVID-19 patients, or those who infected them with the virus, having a history of travel to Europe and the United States is a sign that these countries have failed to take precautions in time,” he said.
Some 1.5 billion liras ($ 221 million) have been collected in the bank accounts of the National Solidarity Campaign Erdoğan had announced last week, the president said.
“The state exists for these very days. The Republic of Turkey, with all its institutions and resources, stands by all of its 83 million citizens, with no exceptions,” he added.
Erdoğan recalled extreme measures taken during Turkey’s Independence War in the beginning of the 20th century, when state authorities confiscated some 40 percent of almost every resource in the country.
“When our country faces a threat, the state and the nation come together and mobilise all their resources. This is what we are doing today,” the president said.
Turkey is prioritising the maintenance of employment, Erdoğan said, referring to his government’s existing supportive measures for businesses, including access to short-term employment funds, loans and postponed taxes, on the condition that they do not lay off employees.
The state will pay two-thirds of salaries for workers employed in businesses that have suspended or reduced production, with the highest compensation being equal to minimum wage, he said.
Municipalities will receive an additional 3 billion liras ($ 442 million) in resources with the government removing deductions from municipal tax revenues for the next three months, Erdoğan said.
Payment of several taxes has been postponed for six months, and some two million citizens have been included in extraordinary situation clauses regarding income tax, he added.
More than 2.1 million low-income households have received one-time payments of 1,000 liras ($147), and plans are in place to deliver aid to 2.3 million more households, he said.
“We are enough for each other. Resources accumulated in our campaign launched with this slogan will be used primarily for you,” the president said.
Erdoğan said the execution of sentences act will be discussed in parliament starting Tuesday, but did not directly acknowledge the controversy the proposed changes have stirred.
The new regulation could release from Turkey’s overcrowded prisons many convicted of violent crimes, while continuing the imprisonment of journalists, academics and politicians.