last night, the government ordered a two-day lockdown- it was probably a very smart, if poorly timed, move as the weather is supposed to be fantastic this weekend after a good two weeks of rainy cold days. people would have certainly tried to make the best of the sunshine and get outdoors as much as possible; ruining any gains we may have made through the past month of social distancing.
unfortunately, the announcement was made around 10pm and was set to go into effect at midnight. in response, many people rushed to do last-minute shopping. they were probably planning on making grocery shopping their weekend activity; particularly as many are still working full time. neither businesses nor the government can afford a full economic shutdown along the lines of the ones in the u.s. and italy; and many of these working citizens aren’t really able to shop online or in shops during the week.
as a result, the news hit like a bombshell and within half an hour throngs of people were massed in front of markets and shops, jostling to get in, most with masks and gloves, but some without.
memes on istagram and whatsapp were immediate and darkly funny… things like, “we managed to spread a weekend’s worth of germs in two hours,” or “the lockdown news was greeted with great public jubilation as the people took to the streets in celebration!”
erim and i had left the house briefly yesterday afternoon to buy some groceries; even we were feeling a bit stir crazy and wanted to get out when we saw the sun. in our little neighborhood people were out and about. some shopping for passover and easter supplies. some walking their pets. some visiting with friends by sitting on separate park benches. erim commented, “at the very least they should declare a lockdown for the weekend”.
our grocery trip was a bit unnecessary, as were those of some of the people we saw yesterday, i feel certain. it is hard to change habits overnight, and uncertainty makes us feel even more antsy than usual.
but in all honesty, with our large-by-istanbul standards house, and our own garden, we are so fortunate. i can’t imagine how difficult this lockdown must be in other parts of the city, where large families so often share small apartments without the respite of even a balcony.
(there is a great article about this in the new york times today- discussing a similar issue in french suburbs- you can find the article here– while social unrest is less of an issue here, the problems with overcrowding and lockdown do apply)
our city is sure to be extra quiet this weekend. we had already noticed a significant decrease in both noise and air pollution, even though people have still been moving around. at various points over the past month of social distancing the global pandemic has seemed surreal and a truly quiet istanbul might be the most surreal moment to date.
we’ll be trying to keep things at home as “routine” as possible though. on sunday we’ll celebrate easter with an egg hunt in the morning and a late lunch- maybe we’ll even get dressed up and have champagne.
and then we’ll see what monday brings…