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Essential public services delivered on two wheels

China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-16 09:31
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Editor's note: This news column showcases stories from around the world that bring a touch of positivity to the fight against the deadly coronavirus.

ANKARA-Thousands of delivery workers are busy each day meeting the needs of residents in the Turkish capital Ankara during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The demand for motorcycle couriers has skyrocketed alongside a boom in online sales amid the lockdowns and curfews imposed in the pandemic.

"We have been the backbone of the supply chain during the pandemic. We have delivered all kinds of goods from food and groceries to clothing and medicines to people," Firat Tilki, a 26-year-old delivery worker, said.

He works at Toscana's, a pizzeria and burger shop in the busy Yildizevler district of the city. The restaurant began operating in the second half of last year-in the midst of the pandemic.

The business owners took a gamble but it has paid off.

Tilki said that the difficult work he and his colleagues carry out has been appreciated by residents.

"We have contributed in our way to serving people who want to have a sense of a normal life during the outbreak," Tilki said.

Since the start of the Turkish outbreak in March 2020, the government has imposed night and weekend curfews and closed restaurants and other hospitality businesses to curb the spread of COVID-19.

For much of this time, only delivery workers were allowed to roam the deserted streets, rushing deliveries to customers in all kinds of weather.

Since March 1, the country has moved toward what the government calls a controlled normalization, reopening businesses and lifting curfews, except in provinces where infection rates are still high.

People's consumption habits have changed during the period, with the rush to online orders.

Teoman Turker, a 36-year-old delivery rider who also runs from Toscana's, said he feared catching the virus and transmitting it to his two children and chronically ill wife.

Even after taking all precautions, the rider still avoids getting too close to his family members at home.

Challenging job

"Our profession is challenging and demanding, but I think we managed to offer a lifeline to many people who had to stay at home. We are, in a way, their representatives outdoors," he said.

Speed is key in this dangerous job on a two-wheeler and, sometimes, the need to meet deadlines has cost riders' lives.

The number of motorcycle couriers who have been killed in traffic accidents during the pandemic has risen tenfold compared with the previous year, according to data from the Federation of All Anatolian Motorcycle Couriers.

Some 190 delivery riders have died since March 2020. The number of deaths among couriers was 19 in 2019.

While driving alone on empty urban roads during a curfew may bring an adrenaline rush to a motorcycle rider, the tips have not been anything to get excited about, said Turker.

"People mostly prefer to pay online to avoid any contact with us, so tips have been on the downside but we can't complain," he said.

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