Ankara on alert after plane lands due to suspicions of coronavirus among passengers

Ankara on alert after plane lands due to suspicions of coronavirus among passengers

Ankara on alert after plane lands due to suspicions of coronavirus among passengers

DHA Photo

A Turkish Airlines plane flying from Iran to Istanbul was diverted to Ankara on Feb. 25 at the Turkish Health Ministry’s request, according to local media reports.

The plane, carrying 132 passengers, was flying from Tehran to Istanbul.

The plane has landed at Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport.

Some 17 passengers allegedly have fever above normal levels, while some others were travelling from the Iranian city of Qom.

All 132 passengers and crew on a flight from Iran to Turkey will be quarantined for 14 days and tested for coronavirus infection, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

In a statement, Koca said the Turkish Airlines flight from Tehran was carrying Turkish nationals back, after Turkey closed its borders with Iran at the weekend over a coronavirus outbreak there.

Koca said all 132 passengers and crew on the flight were Turkish citizens, adding they would be quarantined and tested at a previously prepared hospital in Ankara.

Ankara on alert after plane lands due to suspicions of coronavirus among passengersEarlier on Feb. 25, Turkish Airlines announced that it suspended its China and Iran flights - except the capital Tehran - due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The carrier also said that based on the decree of Turkey's official authorities, foreign people who were in China or Iran's northern city of Qom in the last 14 days will not be granted entry to Turkey.

The carrier's China flights are suspended till the end of this February and Iran flights are cancelled till the 10th of March.

Turkish Airlines said: "We urge you to take the precautions in effect to account when planning your travels."

Two more people infected with the new coronavirus have died, taking the toll in Iran to 16, a Health Ministry official told state TV on Feb. 25.

Iran has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside China, where the virus emerged late last year.

"Among those who had been suspected of the virus, 35 have been confirmed and two died of the coronavirus infection," said Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. He said 95 people had been infected across Iran.

The Health Ministry urged Iranians to stay at home.

Iran said on Monday 900 cases were suspected, dismissing claims by a lawmaker from the holy Shi'ite city of Qom who said 50 people had died in the city, the epicentre of the new coronavirus outbreak.

"It is an uninvited and inauspicious visitor. God willing we will get through ... this virus," said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a televised speech.

Iran, which confirmed its first two deaths last week in Qom, has yet to say how many people it has quarantined, but the semi-official Mehr news agency said 320 people had been hospitalised.

The outbreak in Iran comes as its clerical rulers face mounting U.S. pressure that has hit the economy hard. In 2018, the United States exited Tehran's nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.

The virus outbreak threatens to isolate Iran further, with several countries suspending flights after coronavirus cases in travellers from Iran were confirmed in Canada, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some neighbouring countries have closed their borders. The United Arab Emirates state news agency reported on Feb. 25 that Dubai International Airport had suspended all flights to and from Iran.