Turkey: It’s Continued Spot on the Red List

After a winter of tight restrictions and more than a year of living with Covid, many travellers have been eagerly awaiting their chance to travel to one of their favourite Mediterranean destinations – Turkey. As it stands the chances of visitors getting to Kalkan to enjoy the high season period in this little haven are slim. We are seeing flight providers cancelling their scheduled flights up to the end of August. With the next announcement due on August 5th there is not much time for travellers to rearrange cancelled flights. That is if they were to recommence again during August. Villa owners, business owners and travellers alike are now waiting with bated breath to see if there is a chance for September and October holidays in Kalkan.

When did Turkey Go on the Red List?

Turkey is on the Red List

On the 7th May 2021 the Transport Secretary Grant Schapps announced the initial phase of the traffic light system pertaining to travel from countries around the world. This took effect from May 17th when foreign travel began to open up for UK residents. From day one Turkey was placed in the Red category and to-date has remained in that category. Much to the dismay of Kalkan visitors and business owners.

What is the case rate in Turkey?

Turkey’s seven-day average case rate is 78 per 100,000. The UK’s by comparison, is 457 per 100,000.

What measures have been in place in Turkey?

Lockdown

The Turkish government implemented a full 3-week lockdown between the dates of April 29th and May 17th. The aim was to significantly reduce case numbers prior to the much-awaited tourist season commencing.

Restrictions in Turkey

Restrictions & Curfews

For many months curfews were in place across the whole of the country. On weekends “sokağa çıkma yasağı” was implemented. All residents required to stay indoors and during weekday evening curfews were enforced from 9p.m. until 5 a.m. Furthermore, many business places where groups of people could gather were closed to the public. These included sports centres, cinemas, internet cafes, games and entertainment centres, spas and hammams, tea gardens, coffee houses and restaurants. Shops and supermarkets were allowed to operate for restricted hours. Moreover certain items were restricted from sale to discourage shoppers from going out to browse or purchase non-essential items.

On the 27th June the Turkish Government announced that after an extended period of restrictions, curfews, inter – city travel restrictions would be lifted commencing July 1st.

Masks

Turkey’s mask mandate is still in place to date across all 81 provinces. Citizens are obliged to wear masks without exception in all areas. (Public areas, avenues, streets, parks, gardens, picnic areas, beaches, public transportation vehicles, workplaces, factories, etc.) This excludes private residences.

Vaccines

Turkey has administered close to 63.7 million COVID-19 vaccines since it launched a mass vaccination campaign at the start of 2021. According to the Health Ministry, nearly 39.1 million people have received their first dose. While over 21 million are fully vaccinated.

International Travel

International Travel to Turkey

In seeking to limit the spread of the delta variant, the country has suspended flights from India, where the strain was first detected. Direct travel from Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and South Africa has also been suspended. 

As of June 1st, arrivals from the U.K., Iran, Egypt, and Singapore must have negative COVID-19 test results within 72 hours before their departure in order to enter Turkey.

So why is Turkey in the Red?

Initially the decision for Turkey to be placed on the Red list seemed like a reasonable one. If you were to take the case numbers for the country in the week prior to the announcement. Per 100,000 people the case numbers were significant:

Istanbul530
Ankara360
Izmir223
Antalya200

However, as the 3 weekly updates were announced the decision has been widely criticised and questioned. Case numbers in Turkey decreased significantly throughout May and June. When the June 24th update was made the country had a 50% lower infection rate per 100k than the UK. Furthermore, Turkey had a significantly lower infection rate per 100k than Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Georgia. To name just a few of the countries which were on the amber list.

Red List Criteria

Decisions on red, amber and green list countries/territories are taken by ministers informed by risk assessments provided by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC). According to their risk assessment report, countries are assumed to be Amber unless there is compelling evidence to suggest they fall into the Green or Red categories. The government website for the JBC stipulates the following for Red list countries:

  • Red – presenting a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern (VOC), known high-risk variants under investigation (VUI) or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of COVID-19

To put it in layman’s terms for you, destinations have been assigned to each list based on a range of Covid-19 health metrics. These include vaccination numbers, infection rates and prevalence of variants. If these are the primary factors in the decision making, how then, you ask, can Turkey possibly still be on the Red list? The vaccination program is going well. Case numbers are low and restrictions are in place for entry into Turkey for high risk countries. In which case, there must be some other determining factor for the decision to keep Turkey Red.

Turkey as a Travel Hub

British Airways’ former strategy chief, Robert Boyle has reportedly successfully predicted that Turkey would stay on the red list. This is despite the fact it did not technically “belong there”. The reason why you ask? Turkey is a major hub for international travel with Istanbul as a major stopping point for many connecting flights.

Pre-pandemic, Turkish airlines flew to more destinations than any other airline in the world. Flight connected everywhere from LA in the west to Tokyo in the east. While its main base, Istanbul airport continued to operate a large number of flights during the pandemic, becoming the busiest airport in Europe in 2020.

So perhaps this explains the UK governments concern regarding allowing British holidaymakers to visit Turkey. At the beginning of 2021 none of us in the Kalkan tourism sector could have predicted that the 2021 season would have been even more of a disappointment than the 2020 season. The hope of Covid jabs being the way back to normalcy is proving to have a far slower result than anticipated. This has left many would-be travellers feeling hopeless and frustrated.

How has it affected reservations?

You will not be surprised to hear that reservations for the 2021 season have dropped significantly. Dates up until the end of August have almost completely been cancelled by British tourists. As the FCO advises against all essential travel to Turkey most insurance policies are invalid. This is causing concern for travellers. Even if Turkey moved to Amber holidaymakers are worried that there could be a quick revert back to Red.

So just like in 2021 we have seen many reservations moved to 2022. Many guests have given up on 2021 completely due to so much uncertainty around travel.

When will Turkey’s position change?

When can you travel to Turkey

None of us can anticipate what the Government will decide next. More reports are emerging on the efficacy of the Covid jabs. Supposedly they are weakening the link between cases, hospitalisations, and deaths. So there is some hope that UK citizens who have received two doses will be allowed to travel to Turkey sooner rather than later.

How can Kalkan Holiday Property Help?

Have you been let down with your accommodation? Do you need to move dates to next year? Or are you looking for alternative options or seeking properties with flexible terms? Then we are here to assist. You can browse our property page or contact us for helpful advice.

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