The stars of last spring were the members of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board. We were in a paranoid state —  we thought we would catch the COVID-19 virus as soon as we went out, and we were still washing every single item we bought from the supermarket.

Members of the board were on TV screens every day, from morning news and reality shows to evening news bulletins. They were explaining about the virus and what to do. People were listening and actually also trusting the board members. We did not have anti-mask and anti-lockdown crowds rallying. People mostly trusted the scientists. 

In Turkey, we did not have one or two weeks of lockdowns. Instead, we had lockdowns only on the weekends. I never understood why, but it probably worked somehow, or maybe it didn’t: who really knows at this point. 

At the beginning of June, the government decided to put an end to the weekend lockdowns. Actually, the members of the science board advised having one more weekend of lockdown, and the Ministry of Interior announced another lockdown. However, President Erdoğan decided it was not such a good idea: people had had enough of lockdowns, and that was it. A couple of hours after the Ministry of Interior announced the weekend lockdown, Erdoğan tweeted that the lockdown had been lifted. And that was it, really — after that, the virus was normalized and people started not caring. Members of the science board stopped appearing on TV screens as often. We have been back to business as usual. 

Apparently, the government chose to deny the reality of the virus to save the tourism season. In the midst of a financial crisis, Turkey needed tourist dollars and euros. Last year, Turkish tourism revenues hit $34.5 billion. So probably the thinking went as follows: if we pretend the virus is gone, it will be gone, and the tourists will flood Turkey. Turkey ignored the virus, but the virus did not disappear and the tourists did not come. Now, we are facing rising numbers of cases, rising numbers of people being put in ICU units and rising number of deaths. 

Europeans are advised not to travel to Turkey because the coronavirus numbers presented by the Turkish state are not found to be trustworthy.

One of the members of the science board came forward this week. He said that they were not the ones making decisions. They were just advising. As we all are aware, there is only one person who makes decisions in Turkey: the president. Board member Tevfik Özlü further stated that Turkey seems like it is losing control over the virus. We apparently have tougher days ahead. Since there is only one person taking decisions in Turkey, there must be only one person responsible for the spread of the virus. However, my educated guess is that the members of the board — who actually have no power to make decisions — might have to bear the responsibility in the end.