Turkish gov’t slammed for announcing full lockdown without stimulus package

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Senior opposition party members, critics and social media users have criticized the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over the recent announcement of a full lockdown in Turkey from April 29 to May 17 to fight a surging third wave of coronavirus infections without a stimulus package to cushion the measures’ economic effects.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday said the country would enter “a full closure” that requires people to stay indoors without a valid reason and sees all non-essential businesses closed in addition to restricting travel between regions and closing supermarkets on Sundays for the first time.

The measures appear to be designed to avoid another spike around the time of traditional family gatherings that take place during the holy month of Ramadan as the county on Monday saw its daily COVID-19 death toll rise to 353 – higher than during two previous spikes last year – with a total of 37,312 new infections, the highest in Europe but still down from the peak of nearly 60,000 reported earlier this month.

“They said [non-essential] businesses will be closed without mentioning [economic] support for the employers or the employees. Those who haven’t died of the virus are abandoned to starve at home. Full closure must be supported with a stimulus package,” Veli Ağbaba, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said.

Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş announced on Twitter that a total of TL 100 million will be given to 232,351 families in the capital as part of an economic support campaign launched by the municipality. “My dear family … we are here for you. We will get through these hard times together,” he said.

Following Yavaş’s announcement, a number of social media users compared him to Erdoğan, shocked as to how the president failed to launch a similar campaign throughout the country to lessen the impact of recent measures on businessowners and workers.

“A full lockdown is necessary for Turkey. However, a stimulus package should have been announced along with it. The whole world does it that way, by providing the citizens with direct support. We, therefore, urge the government to launch a stimulus package immediately,” Ali Babacan, leader of the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), stated in a video released on Twitter.

Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister and the leader of a new opposition party, on Monday said imposing a full lockdown was a correct decision but one that came too late and had shortcomings.

“In addition, all families negatively affected by the lockdown should be granted … financial support that wouldn’t be less than TL 1,000 for each of the adults and TL 500 for each of the children in the family,” the Future Party (GP) leader said.

Meral Akşener, leader of the Good (İYİ) Party, which in recent months has seen its polling numbers skyrocket, said people had every right to expect a stimulus package from the government during a full lockdown but that the AKP had chosen to close the door on them instead.

“It is a must to announce a stimulus package for businesses and laborers. The government cannot just say ‘I’ve closed everything’ and leave people to starve,” dissident journalist Nevşin Mengü tweeted.

According to a report by the Gazete Duvar news website on Tuesday, the İstanbul Medical Chamber (İTO) made a statement following the announcement of the full lockdown underlining that it cannot be implemented without economic and social support from the government.

“Confining people to their houses without providing them with the necessary support for them to live amounts to condemning them to starvation, poverty and death. Turkey has resources that can meet people’s needs not for just two weeks but for months,” the chamber said.

“If we were to implement a full lockdown without any economic support packages, why didn’t we do it sooner?” a social media user questioned, while another one accused Erdoğan of “not saying one word” about the millions who barely make ends meet even under normal circumstances and about the country’s slow vaccination rollout.

The announcement of the full lockdown came as Turkey has been falling considerably behind its planned inoculation schedule after a quick start in mid-January. The country has provided two shots to only 8.4 million people and is pushing China to speed up the delivery of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine after securing a deal for 100 million doses.

According to recent data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Turkey’s direct fiscal measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly in the form of tax deferrals but also including employment support, amounted to just 2.5 percent of GDP in 2020, which makes the country among the worst three performers in direct fiscal measures last year, after Mexico and Albania.

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