A new ID and virtue of not sharing in Turkey’s pandemic era

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us two things, it is that you can’t be too careful and that your whole view on life can change overnight.

Since the outbreak made its foray into Turkey in March, the public has seen enormous changes in their daily lives. The concept of sharing, as well as freedom of movement, were the first casualties of the pandemic.

In this new Turkey in which masks are mandatory and crowds must be shunned, millions have tried to adapt to a new environment and a new form of identification: HES codes.

HES, a shortened form of Hayat Eve Sığar (Life Fits Into the Home), is an app developed by the Health Ministry that offers users a unique code based on their personal health records.

Thus, a person’s current health status and whether they have been infected can be checked. The app is basically each citizen’s ticket to freedom (or immediate quarantine, if they are COVID-19 positive).

Initially launched for use in intercity travel, the utility of the app is growing every day. This week, several provinces rolled out a series of regulations making it mandatory to use these codes to access public buildings, from district governorates to municipality buildings.

Those without a HES code, or a code showing whether they have COVID-19 symptoms, are thus refused entry. Citizens can attain the code either through an app in their smartphones or by sending a text message to the Health Ministry.

The code makes tracing potential patients easier while slowing down access to public buildings. Still, authorities believe it will be key to controlling the outbreak.

Hygiene is one of the key factors needed in the fight against this outbreak, and thus, sharing, though difficult for a nation as friendly and hospitable as Turks, is among the pandemic victims.

Adults quickly have adapted to it, but children, especially at a time of reopening of schools, remain unaware. First-graders and kindergarten students returned to schools on Monday, with their first lesson versing them on health measures.

They are now being taught not to share, with teachers advising they should neither borrow nor lend their pencils, notebooks, erasers or other material to their friends and most importantly, wear their masks.

Experts urge parents and school staff to help the young students to keep their personal stuff that way, such as by putting signs on learning materials to indicate its owner.

Barış Sezgin, vice director of Uğur private schools and an expert on psychological counseling and guidance, says first-graders and kindergarten students are more inclined to trade their learning materials and to play games involving close contact.

“Teachers have a task here to impose rules against exchanging between students and reinforce their sense of possession,” he says.