A basket through the window: Turkey delivers essentials to elderly amid coronavirus

2020-03-25 17:52
File photo - Elderly Turkish people are getting groceries through the window.

File photo - Elderly Turkish people are getting groceries through the window.

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"One kilo of bananas, please!" 83-year-old Yuksel shouts down from her fourth-floor window to the grocer's shop on the corner of her Istanbul street before lowering her basket on a rope.

Weighing the bananas, the chatty grocer puts them in a bag, loads up the basket taking the money left inside and calls up to his waiting customer: "Pull!"

Yuksel does so, until the basket is back up to her window where she takes the groceries inside.

The age-old practice, still a familiar sight on the streets of Istanbul, has gained new relevance since Turkish authorities announced on Sunday that they were ordering people aged over 65 to stay at home in the battle against the new coronavirus.

"Before, we were receiving maybe 10 orders a day and this number has reached 50 now," grocer Zafer Gundogdu in the Ferikoy neighbourhood of Istanbul's Sisli district, told AFP.

"Whatever they need, we are at the disposal of our old clients, either filling baskets dropped or delivering at their door from 07:00 until 22:00."

Doing what we can

Butcher Zeynel Ozuner, whose business is in the same neighbourhood, says that he is doing what he can to ensure the elderly do not go without.

"They are also our neighbours. We deliver them bread or a newspaper, not just meat," he said.

Turkey as of Wednesday had officially recorded 44 deaths from coronavirus, most of them, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, were elderly people.

As well as the order for the elderly to stay home, authorities have taken a raft of measures from shutting schools and universities to banning mass prayers but so far have stopped short of a full lockdown.

Swinging in parks 

Many elderly had flocked to outdoor areas and filled parks on a sunny Saturday before the ban entered into force despite government pleas to stay home.

Younger people meanwhile took to social media, expressing hopes that the state would declare a "state of emergency" as they were unable to keep their parents at home and were worried.

Some municipalities across Turkey however have taken more drastic measures.

Park benches have been uprooted from the ground by local officials in Uskudar on the Asian side of Istanbul to discourage older people from going out.

In the northwestern city of Edirne, parks were circled by a wire fence, while in Ankara, authorities suspended free public bus rides for the elderly.

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