Turkey’s Covid-19 cases have steadily increased since the tight nationwide lockdown restrictions were lifted in July, with the daily number of new cases reaching 1,771 on Friday, the highest rate since mid- may. Doctors and opposition politicians say the workload is actually much higher, accusing the government of cover-up – a charge Ankara denies.
Stricter measures to strengthen social distancing were introduced earlier this month. Several areas are facing new curfews and masks are now mandatory in all public spaces and workplaces across the country.
Wedding coronavirus horror stories filled the pages of Turkish tabloids this summer: A wedding in Trabzon was called off after the entire wedding party tested positive at a henna party the night before, and a woman from Kayseri has tested positive after attending five weddings in three days. Even at the height of the pandemic, some people have defied restrictions to hold illegal lockdown celebrations.
As of September 4, weddings are still allowed, but they can only last an hour, with social distancing in place and no dancing or food served. In some areas, volunteer “wedding inspectors” attend celebrations to check that the bride and groom and their guests are following the new rules.
The brakes on large wedding celebrations are an important compromise for Turkey, which must contain the spread of the virus without bringing the already struggling economy to a complete stop. Turkey typically hosts 600,000 weddings a year, and the wedding industry itself is worth £ 98 billion (£ 10 billion).
“It’s not just the cultural aspect of families reuniting and couples starting their lives together that is missing, there is also a big financial impact,” said Emek Kırbıyık, who runs düğün.com, the most the country’s great wedding planning website.
“Direct wedding service providers, manufacturers of appliances, furniture, rugs, whatever is needed to make a new home is affected.”
For Tolga Turkuk, owner of a wedding venue in Istanbul’s popular Kasımpaşa district, September is expected to be the busiest time of the year. Many of his clients spend their summers on the Black Sea harvesting tea and hazelnuts, and tend to have large family celebrations throughout the fall upon their return. This year, however, her calendar is empty.
“We opened for the summer after the national lockdown was lifted, but now everything is canceled again,” he said. “We had three or four days of work a week this time last year and now nothing. It is also emotionally heavy for couples. I saw brides walk away crying.
Rohan Benek, a family doctor from the southern city of Şanlıurfa, however, warned his region saw a spike in coronavirus cases after Bayram (Eid al-Adha) and weddings held over the summer.
“The numbers don’t add up. We were seeing 400 cases per day in Şanlıurfa last month, while the official daily count for the whole of Turkey was 1,200.
“My colleagues are very tired and we are more exposed to Covid-19 than many others. If people want to be able to get married in 2021, they must now heed the warnings. “