Turkish businesses worried over possible 2nd wave of COVID-19 pandemic

Melih Akca’s occupational health and safety firm in Turkish capital Ankara was already struggling due to economic woes, when the novel coronavirus pandemic struck Turkey in March.

Now the business owner is worried that his firm would face more trouble due to the seemingly ceaseless pandemic.

In the last few weeks, businesses in Turkey are wary of a second wave of contagion following the government decision to lift lockdown restrictions since June 1.

Government financial support and loans were essential for many businesses to remain afloat, however, a possible new wave of COVID-19 could be fatal to some companies.

“Before the outbreak, we were already facing serious challenges because of the depreciation of the Turkish lira and a lack of demand, a second wave, due to which we have to shut down again, could be very problematic,” said Akca who employs about 10 people in his firm.

The businessman explained that a new wave of contagion would bring additional costs because of extra health measures at the workplace and new shutdowns.

“The fundamental problem is Turkey’s existing economic woes, and the pandemic has deepened the trouble,” remarked Akca whose firm is tasked to monitor, educate and control firms and employees regarding health and safety standards.

Turkey was slowly recovering from a painful recession triggered by a 2018 currency meltdown with high inflation and unemployment when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, raising fears that current difficulties would be aggravated.

In the last 10 days, Turkey recorded between 1,200 and 1,500 new daily cases, compared with around 800-900 daily infections during the strict lockdown period.

Machinery Exporters Association Chairman Adnan Dalgakiran warned that a second wave would bring an economic crisis, a bigger threat to the country than the health crisis.

“The economy cannot survive another round of business shutdowns. We are facing this massive threat because people are not taking necessary precautions,” he said during a television interview, referring to citizens who are reluctant to wear masks and disrespect distancing rules.

In the Ostim Industrial Zone in Ankara, where around 5,000 small and medium-sized enterprises are located, businesses returned to a “new normal” in late may when the government decided to ease restrictions, but some of the companies are concerned about their future.

“I don’t think that we have seen the full scale of the coronavirus impact on businesses yet. We have to wait until the end of summer to assess the (economic) losses,” Mustafa Ozbek, manager of a car parts manufacturer, told Xinhua.

He explained that his company didn’t lay off any workers, but they may have to make the painful decision to cut workforce if demand falls in the coming months.

Turkey’s vital tourism industry, one of the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic, is also expected to fall far behind this season compared with 2019.

Xinhua correspondent contacted several touristic facilities in the popular Mediterranean resort. For the moment, there are very few foreign visitors, and the resorts are mostly operating on a capacity of only 10 percent.

But the Turkish government is optimistic about the economic recovery.

The country’s Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said last week that Turkey is anticipating a V-shaped recovery out of the crisis and will realize its potential growth.

“Leading indicators in June give positive signals for an improvement in the economy,” he pointed out, citing growth in domestic demand and increases in consumer confidence as well as a jump in the country’s Purchasing Managers’ Index.

“Turkey has the safest tourism facilities compared with those in Europe,” Tourism and Culture Minister Mehmet Ersoy told semi-official Anadolu news agency this week.

The Turkish government has made significant efforts to revive the tourism sector, granting health certificates to hundreds of tourism facilities as revenues are essential for the vulnerable Turkish economy.