From which animal the Covid-19 came from has yet to be determined, but it is thought to have originated from bats. These infected bats could have passed the virus on to chickens or other animals that were sold at the Wuhan Market.
Since the virus first emerged at the beginning of the year it has spread to nearly every country in the world. Currently more than 615,000 people are known to be infected and 28,000 deaths have been recorded, including 1,019 in the UK and 108 in Turkey. The total number of cases in Turkey now stands at around 7,400. It is pure speculation as to how bad it could be, no one really knows how big the pandemic could get. The disease has already taken hold in Europe, the United States and South East Asia and it is spreading to Africa and South America.
Covid-19 is related to SARS, the virus which caused havoc in 2002 and 2003. It died out much more easily than Covid-19 will die out because Covid-19 is not so easy to control but the respiratory problems and risk of pneumonia that comes with it are already proving fatal to those at risk and even in some cases, healthy individuals.
So, with countries on lock down what can we expect. Many large cities have seen panic buying, hospitals overflowing and a variety of decrees by governments trying to halt the spread of the disease so that the medical profession can cope with the large numbers affected. Whilst many people will only experience mild flu symptoms, around 20% of Covid-19 cases could be severe and the current death rate is estimated to be between 1 and 3.5 percent. The numbers are huge.
Here in Turkey the government has announced a series of measures designed to slow the virus. Schools have been closed and lessons are now beamed across the country by television. All sports events and large gatherings have been cancelled. All unnecessary shops, including restaurants, cafes, clubs, bars and shopping malls have been instructed to close until further notice and senior citizens over the age of 65 have been ordered to stay indoors with the threat of fine if they do not comply. The authorities have set up road blocks to check who is travelling and why they are travelling and the Jandarma, rural police units, are deployed to the villages to make sure that places remain closed and that the elderly stay indoors. The damage to industry, tourism and the economy in general is pretty much the same here as it is in Europe.
Whilst supermarkets and market places, petrol stations and pharmacists remain open, the streets are very quiet and the towns and villages have an eerie atmosphere about them. We ventured out once this week to do some shopping and there was no sign of the panic buying experienced by others, our supermarket was nearly empty at a time when it would normally have been busy. There was no shortage of food either. The Turkish people are doing a great job of “Keep Calm and Carry On” There are many who wear face masks and surgical gloves but other than that there is no shortage of food or fuel.
Today we here that the government has now ordered the first lock down in 12 locations in the Black Sea provinces of Rize and Trabzon. The curfew will commence tomorrow in some of the towns and villages most affected. Essentially, residents will be banned from leaving their homes except for emergencies and until further notice. All non-essential businesses are to shut down and there will be strict controls in place to make sure that people abide by the rules.
Part of the problem in this particular region is that a large group of pilgrims were returning from Saudi Arabia to Rize. They entered the country with no health checks in recent weeks to an area that has a large number of Arab tourists and people from Arab countries who have made their home here and become semi permanent residents.Even the road signs and shops display words in Turkish and Arabic, a clear indication as to the numbers involved. This strict curfew gives us an insight as to the alarming speed with which this virus can spread.
Moving between cities will also be forbidden as from tomorrow. Parks and recreation centres will be closed to the public and even jogging and fishing are to be banned. The country has shut down all international flights for an indefinite period and even domestic transportation between cities is now subject to permission from local authorities. The land borders of Turkey have all but closed. So far, in Turkey, more than 210,000 private businesses have been shut down. Tourism, an important part of the economy of the nation is now in trouble and the already fragile economy is subject to even more upheaval for an unexpected and unpredictable period of time.
As our cities and towns go quiet, the pollution clears, and the birds and animals breathe more easily. Is our human existence flawed and in jeopardy as a result of our own foolishness? As satellite images show once foggy cities now free from smog we have to ask ourselves, has it all been worth it? How selfish have we all been? Where do we go from here?
Perhaps in these difficult times businesses will adapt and find new ways to function. Old jobs might change in their roles and application as we struggle to come to terms with what is happening around us. So what do we do now? We sit tight and follow the advice given by our governments. There will always be people who will bend the rules. There will be many who think that they are invincible and that this virus will not affect them. I had to smile as one village chief in Sivas put out an announcement over the tannoy to his village, he was clearly exasperated with people not listening to the advice given. Lets take a moment to listen to that.
Wherever you live in the world, now is the time to look after your friends and relative and the wider community. Do not put them at risk. Stay at home and act responsibly and do you bit to make sure that you are looking after yourself too. Corovid-19 is a killer. Lots of people are going to die. As hospitals struggle to cope we must respect the advice given and the efforts of the professional services that are there to protect and care for us. Make sure that you do everything that you can to ensure that it isn’t you and yours that are put at risk. Stay safe.