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Turkey’s politicians spar over masks, bread in coronavirus response

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists his government should spearhead the fight against the pandemic and has stymied relief efforts in opposition-held cities, forcing local officials to come up with creative ways to deliver aid.
A woman wearing a protective face mask walks in a market at Eminonu neighbourhood during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RC2MPF9PPR1K

ISTANBUL — Residents in the working-class district of Fatih, one of the hardest-hit areas in Turkey by the novel coronavirus, found some unexpected debt relief when they stopped at the corner shop to buy groceries.

Vefa Spor, an amateur soccer club, settled outstanding accounts at local shops last month to help its neighbors weather the economic fallout from the virus. The tradition of paying debts for food bought on credit has gained new momentum after Mansur Yavas, the mayor of the capital Ankara, appealed for the gesture, which “won’t hurt anyone’s feelings and can’t be impeded.”

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