The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an unexpected turn in Turkey. The government decided to declare a lockdown only for those 65 or older. The internet is full of videos of police chasing seniors and people yelling at the elderly to go back home. Most videos are heartbreaking and dystopic.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced that everyone should apply their own state of emergency and feel the responsibility to stay at home. There are rumors of a curfew being implemented, but those rumors have been denied by the authorities for now.

The health minister tweets the latest statistics each night. Only around 2,000 to 3,500 tests are being conducted daily, and there are new cases and deaths everyday. However, exactly who died of this virus is not being declared; from which city the cases are from, we also do not know. Health Minister Koca only said that the virus seems to have spread all over Turkey. 

Reporting about the virus of course a slippery slope in today’s Turkey. Sharing videos of chasing elderly people seems to be okay with the authorities, but reporting various claims is dangerous. So far, 7 journalists, from Antalya, Kocaeli, and Bartın, have been detained. İsmail Çiğit, the editor-in-chief of the Kocaeli Ses newspaper, was taken from his home in handcuffs after his newspaper claimed two people died of COVID-19 in Derince State Hospital. 

The Ministry of Interior stated that 93 people have been identified as spreading false claims about the virus in social media and 19 of them have been detained.

The health minister announcing the new numbers every night is creating an illusion of transparency. However, Turkish people are mostly being left in the dark. Little is being shared about the spread about the virus. There are no official restrictions on movement except for people above 65 — which also is a very debatable precaution. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son-in-law and the Minister of the Economy, Berat Albayrak, seem to see this virus as an opportunity. Their aim seems to be to take some of the share of the production moving out of China. They seem to believe that they can attract potential tourists, who, rather than going to Italy or Spain, may prefer to come to Turkey, where there is not that much of the pandemic!

Not panicking the markets, and trying to keep the economy running in a fragile country like Turkey is understandable. But will it be worth the casualties and maybe lives spared…