What we need in Turkey is a sense of urgency, not panic

Only one in two people in Turkey are worried about Coronavirus, while close to 20 percent stated that they were “neither worried nor unworried”. More strikingly, despite the warnings only 48 percent do not shake hands while only 49 percent do not kiss when seeing someone.

As in the rest of the world, coronavirus dominates the news in Turkey. As of March 20, more than 240,000 people have been infected with the virus and the number of lives it has claimed has surpassed 10,000. In comparison to many European countries, Turkey is in a slightly better than spot with a 670 cases and nine deaths. Since December 2019, the Covid-19 has spread to ta total of 176 countries. While it has hit almost every corner of the world, the coronavirus is affecting different countries in different ways as for demographic reasons and because of the timing and the scope of the measures taken. 

If Turkey seems to be in good place as of today, the measures that will be adopted in the following weeks will be crucial in preventing the spread of the virus and minimizing its damage. As Türkiye Raporu, we looked into whether the public was worried about the pandemic, whether they are content with the measures undertaken by the government and the kind of individual precautions they plan to embrace.  

In our previous surveys, we had asked the question “Which of the following do you think is Turkey’s most important problem?” and received answers such as the economy, education and justice. When we asked the same question on March 17, 39 percent of our respondents said “coronavirus”. Only 21 percent of them said “the economy”, while “terror” was the third most common answer with 13 percent.  

Which of the following is the most important problem in Turkey?

In that regard, the responses given to the second question of our March survey “How worried are you about Coronavirus?” served as a good indicator of public opinion on the matter. According to our results, one in two people are worried about Coronavirus, while close to 20 percent stated that they were “neither worried nor unworried”.

How worried are you about the Coronavirus?

The age breakdown of the second question of our survey “How worried are you about Coronavirus?” yielded some interesting results. With 55.8 percent, the age group that is most worried about Coronavirus was the 25-34 age group, while the least worried age group was the 18-24 age group. It is widely said that the 18-24 age group are the least worried about the coronavirus as they are the least likely to suffer from it. 

In contrast, though the 25-34 age group is supposedly not at risk, they are the most worried of all age groups. This could be related to the fact that the group has older parents who might be especially at risk. Besides, one can assume that this age group has full-time jobs that may be in jeopardy due to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus. Another striking result is that 25 percent of the age groups 18-24 and 65+ declared “not being worried at all”. The fact that the 65+ age group is the most vulnerable group makes that result rather alarming. 

One of the characteristics of the Covid-19 is the fact that those who are exposed to the virus can show no symptoms for up to 14 or even 21 days. Experts say this is one of the reasons why the virus spread so quickly. That is why individual measures such as staying at home, social distancing and so on are determinant.

In that regard, we asked our respondents “Which of the following measures have you undertaken against coronavirus?” Our results show that 54 percent of participants do their best not to leave their homes, while 53 percent use cologne, to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Only 26 percent of our respondents do not go to work. That is likely to spark a debate in the coming days. 

Which of the following precautions do you take?

In addition to individual measures, the government has adopted several measures in the past week. To get an understanding of the public’s reception of these measures, we asked our participants “Do you find the government’s measures sufficient?” One in two respondents found the measures satisfactory. 

Examining the breakdown of the respondents’ political views demonstrates that 66.3 percent of AKP voters are the most content with the government’s measures while only 18.5 percent of HDP voters are satisfied with them. For every other political party the percentage of participants who find these measures satisfactory exceeds the percentage of participants who do not. 

The government’s overall response to the pandemic has become a matter of public debate. In our survey, we provided the respondents with 6 statements regarding those measures and asked them to state how much they endorsed them. Overall, for all the statements, the percentage of participants who agree surpasses the percentage of participants who don’t. 

“Putting those who travel from Europe under quarantine” is the most agreed statement with 75.4 percent, while “Not canceling Süper Lig games” is the most disagreed statement with 39.3 percent. On a side note, two days after our survey was completed, on March 19, the Minister of Youth and Sports has announced that all sports leagues would be postponed indefinitely. This decision is likely to have been well received by the public. Finally, our survey results indicate that the decision to close restaurants, cafés and shopping malls and forbidding mass prayers, including the Friday prayer has caused discontent amongst certain segments of society. Yet 60 percent of respondents welcomed the measures, while 20 percent didn’t. This demonstrates that a majority of the public is aware of the importance of the situation and considers that measures should be undertaken. 

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