ANKARA: Turkey is bracing for a full lockdown from Thursday night to May 17 in a desperate attempt to help curb the surge in COVID-19 cases.
The number of infections reported daily in the country has exceeded 37,000, with an average of more than 350 deaths recorded each day.
Almost all workplaces are forced to shut down during the new period of restrictions – with a few exceptions in logistics, food, manufacturing and delivery – sparking outrage among layers cash-strapped society, with no financial support mechanism.
Experts and politicians have urged the Turkish government to introduce emergency measures to provide monetary assistance to struggling citizens, including small businesses and traders, and those who depend on daily wages.
“The government cannot leave people to hunger after having already left them in need of onions, potatoes and bread,” said Ali Seker, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy, principal opposition from Turkey.
And in a tweet, Garo Paylan, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), said: “How are people supposed to eat? How will they pay their bills, their rent and their debts? This order will likely ruin their Ramadan vacation. “
In February, 250,000 workers lost their jobs in Turkey, according to the latest official labor data, and more than 2.5 million employees had to take unpaid leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sabanci University political scientist Dr Berk Esen told Arab News: “The cash-strapped Turkish government has offered minimal economic aid to the urban poor who have been the most vulnerable group during the pandemic.
“His recent move to complete foreclosure, which was not accompanied by a back-up plan, will hit low-income citizens severely, many of whom have found themselves alone with almost no government protection.”
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently announced that Turkey, having spent less than 2.5% of its gross domestic product on official aid during the global health crisis, was ranked among the top three countries in the world for providing the least financial support to its population. .
“Opposition-controlled municipal governments are trying to fill the great void left by government by reaching poor segments of society with social assistance programs,” Esen said.
Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas has been praised by residents of the municipality for his handling of the COVID-19 epidemic and has become a potential presidential rival to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On Monday, he announced a comprehensive support program worth 100 million Turkish liras ($ 12.2 million), through which 113,000 families will receive a purchase card of 400 lira, 18,500 business owners will receive 400 lire and 100,851 families will receive complete food. packages.
Since last year, the municipality has collected donations to set up a program of economic assistance to the needy after the blocking of the municipality’s bank accounts by the Ministry of the Interior.
Earlier this year, the municipality raised 14 million lire in 26 days to cover residents’ water, transportation and food needs.
In addition, to allow students to take distance learning courses, the municipality will pay the electricity bills of households whose power supply was cut for non-payment during the pandemic.
“Due to the obstacles created by the ruling party (Justice and Development) and limited budgetary resources, the mayors of the CHP have relied on private donations to manage certain programs which greatly relieved poor voters during Ramadan,” he said. added Esen.
“Compared to the government’s incompetent management of the economy and an insufficient response to the pandemic, these policies have dramatically increased the electoral appeal of opposition mayors.
“Yavas and the mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, have both become national political figures just like Erdogan. This situation could catapult one of these figures to a leadership position within the opposition camp, a potential presidential candidate to face Erdogan, ”Esen said.
Istanbul was one of the worst-affected Turkish cities with 71% of intensive care unit beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Turkish banks have said they are avoiding Erdogan’s “ crazy ” channel.