More than two million workers in Turkey have lost their jobs due to the impact of measures adopted to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the country’s main opposition party claimed on April 3—just prior to the Erdogan administration announcing the imposition of a partial curfew on citizens under the age of 20 to step up its battle against the crisis.
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) has been urging the government to introduce far more restrictions on citizens’ movements, while the CHP mayor of Istanbul on April 2 called for the introduction of a lockdown on the city of 16mn. To date, officials had failed to mount an effective defence against the spread of the virus even though their measures were strong enough to kill off jobs, the party has complained. “They [the government] have to start a campaign to keep people home. This current campaign has only led to one thing: unemployment,” CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu told Fox TV in an interview. Around 400,000 businesses had closed and many workers paid wages on a daily basis had been laid off under the COVID-19 measures that existed until April 3, he added.
“The number of those who worked and are now unemployed exceeds two million. These people will receive unemployment wages from the unemployment fund for a short period, but there are no guarantees after that,” Kilicidaroglu said.
The first official data showing the impact of the epidemic on Turkey’s workforce will not be published until May, when the March unemployment figures are released. The Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK) on March 10 gave an official unemployment rate of 13.7% for the November-January period from 13.3% a month earlier,
“We urged the government to take precautions for dayworkers. No measures were taken,” Kilicdaroglu also said in the interview.
Turkey reported its first officially recorded COVID-19 infection on March 11. Since then, its number of infections has exploded. By the end of April 5, it stood at 27,069, with 574 deaths, and many academics contend that the actual figures must be much higher.
No full lockdowns
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said at the beginning of last week that Turkey must “keep wheels turning” to protect and sustain an economy recovering from recession, has ordered retailers, restaurants and other businesses to close. However, he has yet to order a full lockdown anywhere in the country. Prior to the curfew announcement as regards people under 20, only those over 65 and those with chronic diseases were subject to a lockdown.
Meral Aksener, chairwoman of the opposition Iyi Party, said in an online interview on April 3 that the government was “running” from a stay-at-home order due to its economic implications, Reuters reported.
In its latest announced measures, Turkey added that it would shut down the borders of 31 cities, including Istanbul, for all vehicles, excluding transit passage and essential suppliers in food, medical and sanitary products.
“The shutdown of city borders will be in effect for 15 days initially, however this period can be extended if necessary,” Erdogan told a news conference.
Mask usage in crowded public places, on public transport and in grocery stores and workplaces would be obligatory, he added.
Ankara has halted all international and domestic flights, closed schools, bars and cafes and suspended mass prayers to counter the coronavirus outbreak. But people are still going to work, as Erdogan seeks to sustain economic production and exports.