Ankara appears to have adopted a third, perhaps a hybrid, strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The strategy consists of locking down the senior citizens of over 65 years of age and taking the bet of “herd immunity” for the rest –without so much declaring it to the public. This approach of winning it on the cheap also bets on keeping all production lines working at full speed in order to (kind of) wait around the corner and be ready to go once the global economy starts its slow recovery.

In short, both bets are quite risky. Yet I am not in principle against improvised cheap solutions. When the mighty Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, the mujahideen managed to replicate in no time all sorts of multiple rocket launchers they could lay their hands on using hundreds year old artisanal technologies and turned them effectively against the invader. Iranian provided rudimentary EFP-IED (especially formed penetrator – improvised explosive device) technology bedevilled the US army in Iraq causing enormous loss in lives and expensive equipment.

Here, based on daily numbers shared directly by none other but the Minister of Health himself testing is not on the rise but on decline. For example, Germany conducts 22.858 tests daily, whereas the total number of tests conducted in Turkey till today since the outbreak of the pandemic is 8002. Therefore, we can safely assume that aggressive and widespread testing does not seem to be part of the game. Isolation of the elderly from the rest of the population and betting on the outcome that chest pain and intensive care units will not be overwhelmed by those with severe symptoms among those infected are the twin pillars of this defence strategy.

“Hıfzısıhha” – Healthcare Institute’s building in Ankara. Opened in 1930, closed in 2011, this was where the vaccines were developed nationally.

On the health infrastructure front Turkey does not fare so far below its OECD peer member countries. Number of beds, personnel and so forth will be enough to cope with the number of sick citizens flocking to the hospitals as long as the epidemic’s curve remains suppressed enough. This may be the weak point of Ankara’s bet that if the population can hold tight for a couple more weeks than it will be out of the woods come the sunnier days of the second half of April or May eventually. If the numbers do explode at some point, back to the drawing board -it will be too late though, I am afraid.

As per the measures announced by the President himself aimed at sustaining the already fragile economy against the pandemic’s squeeze, these are neither wide nor deep enough. 15 billion USD package is dwarfed by, say, Germany’s 600 billion USD package which is the equivalent of Turkey’s total national income. This may be due to the fact that Central Bank’s already emptied coffers were used to suppress the USD exchange rate hence not leaving enough to suppress the pandemic’s side effects.

These measures obviously will fall short of keeping the national economy afloat when and if push comes to shove. So, the bet here again is that the active population will be ready and rearing to go once the global production center will shift from China following the pandemic. This is quite a long shot in my humble opinion even a “hail Mary pass” if one is allowed the metaphor. Furthermore, no signs from Ankara are visible to more efficiently redistribute and re-prioritize the limited resources. I for one would be tempted to take it easy on numerous and simultaneous military operations –but I am no one.

Adam Sandler in Safdie Bros.’ movie “Uncut Gems” (2019) –a three way bet is difficult to win but may rake in a big profit in if one manages to pull it through.

At the end of the day, Ankara’s undisclosed three-way bet appears to the naked eye as resting first on a hybrid mitigation approach as opposed to the full throttle suppression. Second, that the storm will pass quicker than others expect. Third, that Turkey will find itself on the winning end once the skies clear. This reminds a short anecdote that my late father had told me when I was a kid: A ship sinks, two hapless survivors find themselves on a tiny lifeboat. While one is pulling on the oars, the other one keeps shouting “God is great!” The one who pulls on the oars can’t take it anymore and responds: “True, God is great yet the boat is tiny.”