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Turkey is introducing fresh methods for controlling social life amid COVID-19

Turkey is introducing fresh methods for controlling social life amid COVID-19

With the “new normal” in full swing, Turkey is introducing fresh methods for controlling social life amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The prevention of crowds, especially in mass transit, is among authorities’ top priorities, as people return to work following the summer holiday. The governorate of the capital Ankara introduced new working hours for public sector agencies last week to prevent clusters of employees from being in the office at the same time. Istanbul, the country’s most populated city, is considering a similar measure to relieve packed mass transit vehicles of their burden.

The changes in scheduling come after a presidential decree in late August allows authorities to implement new work methods, such as telecommuting from home and flexible shifts. In Ankara, where virus cases surged in recent weeks, staff at public agencies can now work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A similar change is under consideration for the metropolis, Mustafa Ilıcalı, the head of the Mass Transportation Scientific Advisory Board of Istanbul’s governorate, says. Speaking to Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Monday, Ilıcalı said schedule changes are being mulled both for the private and public sectors. He aired concerns about the frequent use of mass transit by commuters, of which private-sector employees constitute 60%. The governorate plans to discuss flexible working hours with private industry representatives, he said.

Mass transit use increased after Turkey’s normalization process was kicked off in June. The government recently ordered the number of standing passengers taking mass transportation to be limited in a bid to reduce clusters of people. “The number of passengers dropped to hundreds of thousands from millions in the early months of the pandemic, but they rose again after normalization,” Ilıcalı remarked. “Mass transportation capacity is inadequate, especially during peak hours. We have to reduce demand. We see some 500,000 people take the metrobus daily, for instance. Some 50,000 people ride mass transit between 8 (a.m.) and 9 (a.m.) and another 50,000 take mass transit between (5 p.m.-6 p.m.). There is a need to decrease the numbers in those peak hours. Numbers can be reduced to as low as 20,000 by changing work schedules, and social distancing can be maintained,” he said.