Following the Coordination Meeting on the Fight against the Coronavirus (Covid-19) held at Çankaya Presidential Palace, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan started his press conference by respectfully commemorating the martyrs on the 105th anniversary of Çanakkale Naval Victory.
Reminding that epidemic diseases and natural disasters had caused serious losses in every period throughout the human history, Erdoğan pointed out that epidemics with severe consequences in the world were also the triggers of great political, social and economic transformations.
Recalling that the world struggled against epidemics of SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012, Erdoğan continued his speech as follows:
“In addition, our world faced threats such as swine flu in 2009, the Ebola epidemic in 2014, and the Zika virus in 2016. The developments in preventive healthcare and treatment services as well as the pharmaceutical industry prevent the virus epidemic from claiming as many lives as they did in the past. Unless prevented, however, there is still a danger of epidemic diseases leading to mass deaths. Therefore, it is necessary to take quick and effective measures against all kinds of epidemic diseases.”
"We do not yet know what consequences the process will have"
Emphasizing that they evaluated the developments witnessed together in recent months from this perspective, President Erdoğan added:
"We do not yet know consequences this process will have on humanity. It is difficult to predict what kind of future the world of today, shaped by industrialization and the ensuing technology and information revolutions, will evolve into. Especially thanks to the great transformation we have achieved in the field of basic services and infrastructure of our country in the last 17 years, Turkey has been caught in the most prepared manner possible. While the stable policies implemented by our country are supporting the production power of the private sector on the one hand, they are enabling the uninterrupted provision of services in education, health and social security fields under the guarantee of the state, on the other hand.”
Noting that the western countries left all their basic public services to the private sector for years, actually getting rid of them, and thus abandoning their own citizens, Erdoğan reiterated that some of the European countries that had been the most vigorous advocates of liberalism to date, started publicizing hospitals and some other institutions providing basic services.
Erdoğan pointed out that some countries, that do not leave the advocacy of human rights to anyone else, left the epidemic on its own and apparently acted with the understanding of "Whoever dies, dies and the rest lives on."
Erdoğan added: "We will exert efforts for the solution of this problem while also struggling for the establishment of our future in the strongest manner. Erdoğan stressed that they would work harder together by strengthening their commitment to the target of a great and powerful Turkey and the visions of 2053 and 2071, adding: "As a country that has already advanced in the direction that the world is heading towards, I hope we will make the 21st century the century of Turkey.”
Erdoğan reminded that the coronavirus (Covid-19) was first detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and that news about the first death came in the first half of January after the full diagnosis of the disease.
Erdoğan indicated that the World Health Organization decided to declare "emergency" at the end of January, and announced the "coronavirus pandemic" worldwide on March 11.
"Every country has different measures"
Erdoğan said that each country struggled against the Covid-19 threat with different measures; some preferred to rapidly close their borders and apply strict quarantine methods, while others allowed the disease to take its course and activate the innate immune system.
President Erdoğan added the following:
"Turkey has closely followed the developments related to this disease since the very beginning and taken and implemented the measures rapidly. We established an operations center within our Ministry of Health on January 6 and the Board of Science on January 10, and thus closely followed the developments from the outset. We prepared the first version of the Covid-19 Disease Guide on January 14 and informed everyone concerned about the whole process from diagnosis to treatment. We have been screening all passengers arriving from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease occurred, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, the US, Russia and Vietnam upon their entrance into our country as of January 20.
We ensured that the measures determined by our Board of Science, established with the participation of academics from the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) and 12 universities, are rapidly implemented by the relevant institutions. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs started issuing travel warnings on January 27. We brought our citizens in Wuhan, China, into our country by a military aircraft and put them in quarantine in cooperation with our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Health and National Defense on February 1. Thank God, at the end of the quarantine, none of these passengers was infected with virus. In all flights to risky areas, we initiated the process of screening the passengers with thermal cameras and informing them on aircraft. We suspended all flights to China on February 3. Afterwards, we gradually expanded the measures.”
"We established field hospitals at 8 border gates”
Erdogan noted that they have shut down all the air, road and rail crossings to Turkey from Iran, where the disease emerged and started to spread, on February 23, established field hospitals at 8 border gates with Iran, Iraq and Georgia on February 27 and closed the entire passenger traffic between Italy and Turkey on February 29.
Stating that they decided to examine everyone returning from umrah and recommended citizens to comply with the 14-day quarantine rule on March 2, Erdoğan said that they prohibited foreign nationals who had been to Italy in the last 14 days from entering Turkey and obliged Turkish citizens to remain in quarantine at home for 14 days on March 6.
"Our sole aim is about human life"
President Erdoğan said that Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca informed the public on the fact that a citizen traveling from Europe tested positive for Covid-19 for the first time on March 10 and that they took quite important measures in a meeting chaired by him on March 12 and implemented them immediately.
“Among them are such measures as shutting down the schools and transition to distance education, postponement of public officials’ foreign missions and playing the sports events without spectators. Although some people may say different things, our sole aim is about human life,” said Erdoğan.
"Turkey’s biggest strength is its unity, solidarity and brotherhood”
Recalling that they are the members of a civilization that says "Humans come first" and also the members of a culture that argue, "Keep the people alive so that the state could live," President Erdoğan stressed that the measures taken in this process aimed to protect people's lives and future.
Stating that the best way of protection from this disease, which has no vaccine and definitive cure, is to avoid the spread of the virus, Erdoğan made the following remarks:
“All of the measures taken and recommended are for the purpose of protecting the health of both ourselves and other people. The best method of protection from the Covid-19 disease consists of measures taken individually by everyone. No one has the right to endanger the health of the entire society due to his selfishness or negligence. As individuals, each of us has the responsibility of self-sacrifice for the health and peace of the whole society.
The measures will be temporarily implemented in Turkey just as other countries in the world until the risk of epidemics disappears. If we carefully comply with the precautionary measures announced, we could limit the duration of staying at home by 3 weeks. The thing that we should be careful about the most in this process is to pay attention to our personal hygiene and distance from other people.”
"We will express our love with our words until the danger of the epidemic is over"
Recalling that all the scientists agree that hygiene is the most effective measure against the virus, Erdoğan noted that the cleanliness of our body, environment and houses were just as important as having a pure heart, in terms of both cultural and religious values.
Emphasizing that people who wash their hands, mouth, face, nose, head and feet five times a day in line with the advice that cleanliness is next to godliness do the ideal cleaning both in Islamic and medical terms, Erdoğan added:
Shaking hands, hugging each other, kissing the children by their face and the elderly by their hands are obviously important in our culture, because our nation likes to show love by touching. Nevertheless, these difficult times we are going through require us to delay such acts for a while. We will have to confine ourselves solely to show our love with our hearts and express it with words until the danger of epidemic completely disappears. Therefore, we will greet each other from our hearts. Prophet Muhammad recommends that ‘We should not go to a plague-stricken place and we should stay in that place, if it is plague-stricken. In accordance with the hadith of Prophet Muhammad, we should keep away from places that are likely to be infected with Covid-19 and to avoid contact with other people, if we have already been infected.
When Caliph Umar was about to depart for Damascus, he learns that the epidemic outbreaks there, and thus he decides to cancel his travel. Afterwards, one of the companions asks Umar, "Are you escaping from the fate that Allah has decreed?" Umar replies, "Yes, we are escaping from the fate that Allah has decreed again towards the fate that Allah has decreed." Today, our duty is to take all measures and rely on Allah for the rest. With this understanding, we, as the state, have mobilized all our means to eliminate as soon as possible the virus threat with which our country is faced. In this process, the biggest duty falls to every and every individual of our nation."
Erdoğan asked all citizens to remain at home until the risk of epidemics is over, adding, "Any contact we cannot control is likely to make us a virus carrier. Even if we are not harmed, we may, God forbid, infect our loved ones with the virus that we carry and cause them to be taken ill or even die."
Noting that they have taken all kinds of measures ranging from production to logistics, in order to ensure that the food, sanitation, water, communication and other basic needs could be sustained in this critical process, Erdoğan said, "We also maintain our efforts at full steam and continuously to develop vaccine and drugs against the Covid-19 disease."
"Our Ministry of Industry and Technology, which carries out the R&D efforts, brought together all the important researchers and institutions regarding the issue. We have a great potential for the production of a diagnostic kit," President Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan noted that during phone conversations he has held with the leaders of Germany, France, and England the other day and with Italian Prime Minister the previous day, he has discussed with his interlocutors the contributions to be made by Turkey with regard to this epidemic.
Erdoğan recalled that Turkey has provided China with medical supplies during the initial epidemic outbreak and stated that Turkey would similarly benefit from the experiences of those countries.
President Erdoğan announced the economic measures to mitigate the effects of the virus.
Erdoğan said that the prerequisite for the companies to benefit from the opportunities in the economic package announced was to ensure that they would not cause any loss of employment.
Stating that the financial institutions should also take certain steps as part of the mitigation of the effects of coronavirus on the economy, Erdoğan made the following remarks:
"It is important that the cash and liquidity demands of the companies, which have limited credits from financial institutions and organizations, are met rapidly and that no further limitation be imposed on granting them with their credit limits. We expect the financial institutions to take certain steps to stretch the credit conditions in order to ensure that employment is maintained and economic growth is sustained in such an environment.
We ask all financial institutions to carefully avoid implementing such practices as credit recall, disallowance of the current credit limit, marking up the prices and obstruction of guarantee terms. In addition, the demands of corporate firms, SMEs, individuals, those suffering temporary losses of employment and turnover or loss of income for similar reasons, with regard to installments, postponement, restructuring and readjustment should be met rapidly and positively. We believe that all financial institutions will follow the recommendations of the Banks Association of Turkey on the issue. We will also monitor this process closely."
"We are launching a support package worth 100 billion Turkish Liras "
Stating that a series of measures were taken to limit the effects of the pandemic, President Erdoğan said, "With a package called Economic Stability Shield, we are introducing measures worth a total of 100 billion Turkish Liras in order to lessen the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.”
Erdoğan announced the 19-item list of measures as follows:
1- Withholding taxes and VAT cuts and insurance premium payments for April, May and June have been deferred by six months in various sectors, including retail, malls, iron-steel, automotive, logistics-transport, cinema-theatre, accommodation, food and beverage, textile-ready wear and event-organization sectors.
2- Accommodation taxes will not be applied until November.
3- Easement fees and revenue share payments for hotel rentals for April, May and June have been deferred by 6 months.
4- Value added tax (VAT) on domestic air travel has been reduced to 1% from 18% for three months.
5- Credit principal and interest payments to the banks of firms whose cash flows deteriorated due to the measures taken against the Covid-19 pandemic will be deferred by at least three months, and additional financial support will be provided, if needed.
6- In order to maintain capacity utilization ratios during the temporary slowdown in exports, we will extend stock financing support to exporters.
7- Provided that the craftsmen and artisans declare that their businesses have been effected negatively in this period, their credit principal and interest payments to state lender Halkbank will be deferred by three months in April, May and June without interest.
8- We will increase the Credit Guarantee Fund limit from 25 billion Turkish Liras to 50 billion Turkish Liras, credits will first be given to firms and SMEs that have liquidity needs and collateral deficit due to the negative impact of the recent developments.
9- We will promote credit packages for social purposes under favorable and advantageous conditions to our citizens.
10- We will increase the amount loanable to houses up to 500 thousand Turkish Liras from 80 percent to 90 percent, and reduce the down payment to 10 percent.
11- We will ensure that the firms that have fallen into default in April, May and June due to the impact of Coronavirus have a “force majeure” note in their credit registry.
12- We will maintain the minimum wage support.
13- We will ensure that flexible and remote working models in our legislation are made more efficient.
14- We will implement the Short Work Allowance, and facilitate and expedite the processes required to benefit from it. Temporary income support will thus be provided for the workers of workplaces that suspended their activities, while also reducing the cost to the employers.
15- The lowest pension amount has been increased to 1,500 Turkish Liras.
16- Holiday bonus for pensioners will be paid at the beginning of April.
17- We will allocate an additional fund of 2 billion Turkish Liras for cash aid to families in need according to the criteria determined by the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services.
18- Compensatory working time will be increased from two months to four months in order to ensure continuity in employment.
19- A periodic follow-up program consisting of social services and home healthcare will be introduced for seniors over 80 years of age and living alone.
"No virus is stronger than Turkey"
Wishing that the decisions taken will be beneficial for the nation and the economy, Erdoğan said, “Reiterating that no virus is stronger than Turkey, the unity, solidarity and brotherhood of the Turkish nation, and the measures that we have taken and will continue to take, I extend my love and respect to each and every one of you.”
On the occasion of March 18 Martyrs’ Day and the 105th Anniversary of Çanakkale Naval Victory, the flag of the 57th Regiment, all of whose soldiers were martyred during the Çanakkale Battle, was present in the meeting hall.