The Istanbul Municipality (IBB) Science Committee noted that an early relaxing of COVID-19 measures could lead to a sudden surge in infections and urged local administrations to take precautions as Turkey starts the normalization process.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said May 4 that the country was starting to relax COVID-19 precaution measures, including the reopening of shopping malls, hair salons, barbers and public spaces.
The IBB Science Committee had previously urges the government to delay removed precautions until after Eid Al-Fitr May 23.
The municipality also noted that Turkey wasn’t yet in a desirable spot in its fight against COVID-19, and urged gradual normalization instead of allowing sudden crowds to flow to the streets at once.
“We find the decision to open malls, hair salons and barbers, and to start the soccer league concerning for the health of the workers, athletes and the public,” the IBB Science Committee said in an official statement.
Rush to malls
The committee pointed out that the rush of crowds to malls when they open will make it impossible to maintain the necessary distances between individuals.
“Malls are mostly closed spaces. Virus particles risk circulating in the closed ventilation systems.”
The committee urged citizens to avoid malls if they can, to visit outside of busy hours if they must and to wear personal protective equipment if they do.
The committee also urged customers to wash hands immediately after coming into contact with items on display, to avoid bathrooms if possible and to use hand sanitizer often.
The committee also urged customers to take their own towels, combs and brushes to the hair or beauty salon or to the barber shop.
Customers should request disposable tools be used on themselves, and make sure to observe whether all measures are adhered to, the committee added.
Too early to start the league
The committee criticized the Turkish Football Federation’s decision to start the league, although no audiences will be allowed at the games.
“There will be 22 football players, four referees and the runners on the field. Soccer is by nature a contact sport. It’s impossible to maintain enough distance between players during the game.”
The committee said that it was too soon to start the league, and urged the federation to prioritize athletes’ health over resuming games.
The IBB also noted that some million passengers still used public transportation in Istanbul during the quarantine, which implies that the vehicles will be even busier once workplaces re-open.
“Considering the crowds versus the capacity of Istanbul’s public transportation, it will be impossible to maintain physical distance in stations, or on the vehicles.”
Although the IBB will be providing masks and disinfectants, and clean the vehicles, these precautions will be less effective against large crowds, the committee noted.
Lastly, the committee urged workplaces to reschedule their working hours to try to spread the rush on public transportation.