The UK government has removed Turkey from the so called 'safe list' and advises against all but essential travel.
It has added Turkey to the list of countries where you are required to quarantine upon your return to the UK, with effect from 4am on Saturday 3rd October.
If you are thinking of coming despite the advice not to travel you should check your travel insurance policy to see if you are adequately covered. Depending on when you booked your flight and took out your policy you may be able to recover the cost of a cancelled trip, but it is highly unlikely that an insurer would pay out for claims that arise if you choose to travel against FCDO advice.
You can read more here on the UK FCDO travel advice page for Turkey
This change comes at a time when the world is continuing to experience an increasing number of Coronavirus cases. More than one million people across the world are said to have died after contracting the virus; a grim milestone.
The following charts show the daily "new cases" of Coronavirus and also the daily death rate up to 1st October 2020.
The latest daily figures (1st October) show new cases in Turkey as 1,407. By way of comparison the numbers of new cases in France is 13,970; in Spain 9,419 and in the UK 6,914.
Coronavirus daily deaths: Turkey 67; France 63; Spain 182 and UK 59.
Looking at a regional level the government does not publish statistics for Antalya province.
For reporting purposes we come under the Mediterranean region, which comprises no fewer than eight provinces. They are Antalya; Burdur; Isparta; Mersin; Adana; Hatay; Osmaniye and Kahramanmaraş.
The following chart gives the number of "new cases" officially recorded in the Mediterranean region from 1st June to 29th September 2020.
Source: Turkish Ministry of Health
New cases or new patients?
The regional figures for Turkey are no longer visible online. When we viewed them in September they referred to daily “new cases”, but yesterday prior to the page becoming unavailable the wording had changed to “new patients”.
None of the old numbers had been changed so we must assume that the numbers were only for those who had symptoms and had been hospitalised. They do not include those who are asymptomatic - i.e. tested positive with the virus but not ill enough to go to hospital.
This new wording coming out of the Turkish Ministry of Health is a significant development.
The following quote comes from a Reuters news report dated 30th September 2020:
“During a weekly news conference, Fahrettin Koca [Turkish Minister of Health] said the number of daily new COVID-19 “patients,” which he defined as those who are symptomatic, was more important than the number of new “cases,” which include those who do not show symptoms.
“Not all cases are patients because there are those who show no symptoms at all even though their tests come back positive. These create the vast majority,” he said.
UK government reaction
It did not take long for the UK government to respond to this news. According to inews online a UK Government statement said: “The Turkish Health Ministry has said it has been defining the number of new COVID-19 cases in a different way to the definition used by international organisations such as WHO and ECDC, meaning that the Joint Biosecurity Centre’s risk assessment for Turkey has been updated to reflect the likely impact of this on the data for incidence and test positivity rates.”
Consequently the travel advice for Turkey was updated as outlined above.
This in fact coincides with what we were told about the Turkish government’s HES app ‘heat map”. As we reported some time ago it has only ever included those with Coronavirus symptoms, not asymptomatic people who may have tested positive.
This clarification on counting methodology and the subsequent change in UK government advice will undoubtedly have an impact on tourism here in Kalkan and more widely in Turkey.
Already we have heard of people cancelling accommodation bookings in Kalkan and we are aware of some flight cancellations. It is reasonable to assume that most UK holidaymakers will heed government travel advice. Their travel insurance is likely to be compromised and they would face a two week period of quarantine upon their return. Moreover travellers may be unsettled by news of this exceptional counting methodology, which effectively under-records new Coronavirus cases when compared to most other countries, leaving travellers without comparable information to assess the real Coronavirus risk.
Of course some people may have good reason to go ahead with their travel plans but we would expect the impact on numbers travelling to Turkey for the rest of this season to be significant.
In other Coronavirus news the Turkish government has recently ramped up the requirement to use HES codes - part of Turkey's Coronavirus track and trace system. Everyone, including tourists, now requires a code to enter pretty much all government offices, banks, water, electric and phone company offices.
A HES code is also required to enter all accommodation establishments and to use bus and dolmuş services.
You can learn more about HES codes here: https://hayatevesigar.saglik.gov.tr/index-eng.html
There is also HES code information on the UK FCDO travel advice page.
Coronavirus safety measures
There is still a requirement to maintain social distancing and the wearing of masks at all times when outside the home is mandatory. Masks can be removed when eating, drinking and in certain other limited scenarios such as when in the sea. These rules apply to everyone.
Curfews remain in place in Antalya province for those aged 65 and above between the hours of 5pm and 10 am. Although the official announcement only mentions Turkish citizens the local authorities including the Jandarma are interpreting the rules as being applicable to everyone.
We have observed routine checks being carried out by the Zabita, Jandarma and Traffic Jandarma however they can’t be in all places at all times and it isn't unusual to see people not wearing masks or social distancing. We have also noticed people aged over 65 out in the evening.
That said many businesses and their staff are trying hard to do what they can to comply with the Coronavirus regulations. It’s difficult and sometimes uncomfortable but it’s necessary to reduce the spread of the virus and prevent deaths.
Wherever you may be please stay safe.
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