Coronavirus-free Turkish villages fear visitors from virus hit cities

Secluded villages near the small town of Kaş, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, are currently free of the COVID-19 coronavirus, but they are afraid that visitors from virus hit cities could soon bring the disease to the area as Turkey gets set to re-open its tourism sector, Deutsche Welle said.

"At the beginning we were not afraid,” Mehmet, a 49-year-old farmer living in a village near Kaş told DW. “But then there weren't only cases in Istanbul, but also in Antalya. Now everyone is scared, it's our lives at risk here." 

The public hospital in Kaş was built around five years ago, and has around 50 beds. Doctor Munise Ozan told DW that - although they had yet to receive any cases - the hospital was prepared for non-severe COVID-19 patients, and that it had an intensive care unit and a ventilation machine.

But she said very severe cases would have to be sent to Antalya, around 180 km away.  

“If Istanbul people come to the seaside - our town, or other places - of course it could be risky for other people, for local people,” Ozan told DW.

Istanbul is Turkey's coronavirus hotspot, with 60 percent of all of the country's coronavirus cases.

Usually by this time of year Kaş would be full of tourists – but measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus meant that the tourism sector effectively shut down in March.

With a declining infection and death rate from the disease, Turkey is seeking to re-open its tourism industry, a key contributor to economic growth, for domestic tourists in June. 

Foreign visitors are then due to be invited back from some countries in a stepped approach that will include testing and social distancing at hotels and on beaches.

Mehmet did tell DW that he had observed some positive effects from the COVID-19 outbreak. 

"Nature is recuperating, different animals are showing themselves again,” he said. “When I was out and about recently I saw so many rabbits. Because there are hardly any cars on the streets, they are not afraid anymore."