Former US diplomat Matthew Bryza says US President Donald Trump can "learn something" from President Erdogan as Turkey planned ahead for the pandemic.
Turkey's "strategy seems to be working" as it "stuck to its pandemic plan," which it unveiled last year in April, 11 months before the first coronavirus case surfaced in the country, a former US diplomat, Matthew Bryza, has said.
In a blog post at Atlantic Council on Turkey's progress in dealing with the novel coronavirus, Bryza said the 229-page plan against the pandemic was published in April 2019, which helped Ankara cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Bryza said he expected a possible health catastrophe in Turkey when no deaths or cases were reported until March 11 while the virus was pummeling Iran, Italy and Spain.
"And at first, my fears seemed well placed. Over the following weeks, Turkey had the highest Covid-19 infection rate of any country in the world. Social media in Turkey reverberated with terrifying rumors that all of Istanbul’s intensive care unit (ICU) beds were occupied while coronavirus patients continued to flow into hospitals," he wrote.
Strong healthcare system
He said the prudence and clarity of his government official friend echoed the Turkish government’s general approach to this pandemic.
Two days after the first case, the Turkish government shut all schools and four days later, all cafes, restaurants, bars and gyms were closed.
Afterwards, the government indefinitely declared a curfew for people above 65, who are in the highest-risk category, then youth under 20 were added to the curfew list.
After isolating the most vulnerable groups in Turkish society, Ankara announced travel bans into and out of the 31 largest cities, excluding goods.
In a further effort to control the contagion, weekend lockdowns were imposed in April and May, sometimes extended to four days.
"Thus far, this strategy seems to be working," he said.
"Unlike in Madrid or Lombardy or New York City, Turkey’s healthcare system was never overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients. And the world’s steepest coronavirus infection curve is now declining precipitously," he said.
He also added that Turkey's economy avoided the "devastating shutdowns" seen in US and most of Europe.
Citing Johns Hopkins University research, Bryza said the mortality rate in Turkey was about 2.8 percent by May 26 while this number is 5.9 in the US, 12.2 in Spain, 14.1 in the UK and 14.3 in Italy.
Turkey's powerful culture
Bryza attributed the successful fight against coronavirus to Turkey's culture, economy, young population, low number of nursing homes, and having a large number of ICU beds in private hospitals.
"There are very few nursing homes in Turkey, with the elderly generally taken care of at home by family members," he said.
He also lauded the efforts of Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca for his "clarity, transparency, and credibility of his near-daily TV briefings."
"Given that US President Donald J Trump seems to genuinely admire President Erdogan, maybe he can learn something from his tough counterpart in Ankara."