ISTANBUL, 23 December (BelTA - Xinhua) - Turkey counts down the day to its first New Year celebrations, which will be held under COVID-19 lockdown, while experts warn that festivities should strictly stay within core family members.
The pandemic has forced authorities to scale down crowded events, and a four-day curfew will be in place across the country starting on the evening of Dec. 31.
For the first time, there will be no partying in the streets of Istanbul. Cafes, restaurants, and clubs of the biggest city of the country of over 16 million, well-known for its colorful nightlife in normal times, will remain shut.
People have already started shopping for this otherwise festive time amid drastic measures taken to curb the pandemic.
Tugce Ozgun, a resident from Istanbul's Kadikoy district located on the Asian side of the city, has made a limited list of what to purchase for this year for her parents and close friends.
"The only thing for which I am grateful this year is my health, to be honest. Otherwise, on a personal and professional level, it has been bleak and difficult with everything that is going on with the pandemic," this owner of a small business told Xinhua.
"I will be traveling to Ankara to be with my mother and father. We will be at home all the time during the lockdown," Ozgun noted. "It will be good for my budget, though," she smilingly said. "I do not have to buy many presents as there won't be any get together with friends like in the previous years."
Many cafes and restaurants in major cities have announced special take-out menus for this unprecedented New Year's Eve, proposing turkey dinners and other gastronomic delights, including the much-loved kebabs.
Online shopping is also on the rise, especially among citizens under the age of 20 who are not allowed to use public transportation and may only go outdoor for three hours a day.
Feyza Dereli, a marketing director at one of Turkey's leading e-commerce sites, GittiGidiyor, said the sector projects at least a 50 percent year-on-year increase in overall holiday shopping this year, the Sabah daily reported.
Turkey's coronavirus-hit tourism sector also wants to take advantage of the festivities by dangling discounts on hotel stays to lure people.
Health specialists, meanwhile, are urging citizens to comply with hygiene rules and social distancing throughout the festive times.
Sema Turan, a member of the Health Ministry's Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, urged citizens to celebrate at home with only their closest family members.
"Don't go outdoors, don't go to large and crowded venues. Even at home, there should not be a crowd. Otherwise, there will be consequences," she warned.
Turan, who works at Ankara City Hospital's intensive care unit, indicated that the curfew eased their caseloads. "This shows that compliance with the rules can help fight the pandemic. If we continue complying with the restrictions, the outbreak may end in months," she said.
Panora Mall, one of Ankara's biggest shopping outlets, is full of sale signs, with some shops offering up to 50 percent discounts on goods. One shopper, who introduced herself as Secil, said she was making the most out of the sales savings and buying gifts for her family.
"The pandemic has stolen a lot of happiness this year. We are about to bid goodbye to 2020, and we hope that 2021 will be better for all. Let's hope the vaccines will defeat this virus," she said to Xinhua.