All Turks coming into contact with tourists will be vaccinated, says FM Çavuşoğlu

Turkey will prioritise the vaccination of workers in the tourism sector, according to Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in a bid to avoid losing significant revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic for a second summer.

“We will finish vaccinating anybody tourists could see by the end of May,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters in a joint press conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas in Berlin on Thursday.

“We have taken all our precautions so our friends can spend their vacations safely,” he added.

Çavuşoğlu said more than 26 percent of Turkey’s population had received vaccines. According to health ministry figures, the country has fully vaccinated 10.1 million of its 83 million citizens since Jan. 14. Another 4.4 million people have received a first dose.

In Antalya, one of the country’s most popular destinations for holidaymakers, 328,969 people have received both doses of either SinoVac or BioNTech vaccines, out of the province’s regular winter population of 2.5 million.

Turkey is keen to revive international tourism to bring in foreign currency for the struggling economy, but a steep rise in COVID-19 cases has forced authorities to impose renewed lockdown measures.

The lockdown is set to expire on May 17, after which a further assessment will be made.

Germany is second only to Russia as Turkey’s largest source of foreign visitors. However, Russian authorities Russia temporarily restricted flights to and from the country on April 15 citing rising COVID-19 cases.

Despite the pandemic, some 1.2 million German citizens visited Turkey in 2020, Çavuşoğlu said. In 2019, there had been 5.2 million German visitors.

“We have included additional measures in our safe tourism program this year,” the foreign minister said, expressing hope for continued close cooperation ahead of this summer’s tourism season.

Çavuşoğlu’s comments focusing on the welfare of tourists instead of Turkey’s own citizens generated a negative reaction among Turkish social media users.

“I like that Çavuşoğlu is straightforward,” analyst Kerim Has said. “He can’t act in a diplomatic manner even when he is belittling the people.”

Another user commented that only vaccinating those in contact with tourists perhaps wasn’t enough. “You should also put a collar on every vaccinated person with a tag that says, ‘can be seen by tourists’,” they said.

“That’s not enough, put up tags on their ears as well,” another Twitter user added, in an apparent reference to state efforts to control stray dogs. “Tourists can pet them without fear.”

“Please come to Siirt,” another Twitter user joked. “The fate of a people depends on you visiting Siirt.” Only 11,000 of Siirt’s 330,000 population have so far been fully vaccinated.