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  How politics derailed Turkey’s pandemic response
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ContributorIndyGeorgia 
Last EditedIndyGeorgia  Apr 23, 2020 08:57am
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CategoryAnalysis
AuthorBeril Eski
News DateWednesday, April 22, 2020 06:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionISTANBUL — Turkey’s coronavirus response looked to be on the right track — until the country’s polarized politics got in the way.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quick to close borders, restaurants and schools as the virus spread beyond China. But in recent weeks, the country’s approach has turned increasingly erratic as Erdoğan tries to balance combatting the outbreak with reining in the popularity of political rivals.


That strategy culminated in chaos earlier this month, when the government — after resisting calls for a lockdown from popular opposition figures — declared a weekend curfew for parts of the country on April 11, just two hours before it went into effect.

The sudden announcement prompted thousands of people to rush into the streets, which had previously been largely empty thanks to partial restrictions and social distancing advice, to panic-buy food while the stores were still open. Footage of brawls outside bakeries and people squeezing into crowded shops flooded social media.

A second curfew, announced well in advance, passed without incident this past weekend, and a four-day curfew will go into effect on Thursday.

But many worry that the first weekend’s chaos has undone several weeks’ worth of social distancing — and there are signs that Erdoğan isn’t done yet playing politics with Turkey's pandemic response.

In a recent speech, denouncing media reports critical of the government’s outbreak response, he said: “Our country will hopefully get rid of not only the coronavirus, but also these media and politics viruses as well.”
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