The first session of the Higher Educational Institutions Examination (YKS) was taken by around 2.5 million students in Turkey on Saturday amid concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite warnings from medical experts and insistent calls from the students, the Turkish government refused to postpone the national exam, raising fears about the further spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.
Since registering its first case on March 11, Turkey has so far reported 195,883 COVID-19 cases, while the death toll in the country had reached 5,082 as of Saturday, according to a statement from Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.
The students took the first section of the YKS, the Basic Proficiency Test (TYT), on Saturday. On Sunday they will sit for the second section, known as the Field Proficiency Tests (AYT), while students who want to study languages will sit for the Foreign Language Test (YDT) Sunday afternoon.
The students were told to wear masks and observe social distancing during the exam, while the students who are being treated for COVID-19 were brought to the testing sites in ambulances and wrote the exam in isolated classrooms.
Many have accused the government of putting the students’ lives at risk and risking further spread of the pandemic by not postponing the exam. They said the government did not want to hold the exam at a later date, fearing that it could affect the country’s tourism revenues.