Turkey announces new measures as virus death toll reaches 75
A man wearing a protective face mask and a woman are seen on a train as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Istanbul, on March 26, 2020. (REUTERS Photo)
Turkey's death toll from the coronavirus increased by 16 to 75 on March 26, as the number of confirmed cases rose by 1,196 to 3,629, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.
He said on Twitter that 7,286 tests had been conducted in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of tests carried out in Turkey to around 40,000.
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran said on March 27 that up until now, 50 Turkish citizens lost their lives due to COVID-19 in eight countries.
Kıran said at least 151 Turkish citizens abroad have tested positive for COVID-19. Turkey is closely monitoring their situation, he added.
He also conveyed that nearly 15,000 Turkish citizens have been brought back home.
The Interior Ministry issued a circular late on March 26, bringing more measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
In marketplaces offering staple foods or cleaning materials, the sale of non-essential items will not be allowed, according to the circular.
Fresh vegetables and fruits sold unpackaged in marketplaces must be packaged by the sellers, avoiding customer contact with the items.
The sale of non-essential items such as clothing, toys, ornaments, and bags will be temporarily suspended as of March 27 at 17:00 (1400 GMT).
At least three meters of distance must be left between stalls to reduce the density in marketplaces.
On March 24, Turkey also imposed restrictions on grocery store opening hours and numbers of customers allowed in shops and bus passengers to 50 percent of the vehicle’s capacity.
Ankara has already closed schools, cafes, and bars, banned mass prayers, postponed sports matches and suspended flights to many countries.
Suspended flights to New York
Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines has suspended its flights to New York amid the global coronavirus outbreak, the national flag carrier announced on March 27, after the United States surpassed China and Italy as the country with the most coronavirus cases.
The number of U.S. cases of coronavirus reached 81,378, the Reuters tally showed. China was second with 81,285 cases, and Italy third with 80,539 cases.
"As of March 27, 2020, 23:59 [March 27, 0859 GMT], only limited international flights will continue until April 17, 2020…Accordingly, the New York line was canceled," CEO Bilal Ekşi said on Twitter.
Pilgrimage procedures postponed
Payments, preparations, and other procedures for would-be Turkish pilgrims to Saudi Arabia have been halted indefinitely amid the coronavirus outbreak, Turkish authorities announced on March 27.
Training for pilgrim candidates and procedures for luggage, books, and other materials and employee selection and training have all been halted until further notice, said Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate.
Payments for people who already paid the first installment for pilgrimages have been postponed, it added in a statement.
Turkish, Chinese experts discuss virus in video call
Furthermore, members of the Science Board held a video conference with Chinese authorities on March 26 to discuss the global disease.
According to a statement by the Health Ministry, the Science Board for coronavirus and Chinese officials and scientists exchanged knowledge and experience about the virus during the three-hour meeting.
The question-and-answer session followed China’s presentation on the coronavirus.
The parties addressed topics such as the course of the disease, known features, effects in age groups, specific symptoms of the disease, diagnostic methods, treatment protocols, vaccination studies and conditions of healing patients.
Turkey ordered rapid testing kits from China, as well as medicine that is been used to treat coronavirus patients. The medication was distributed to provinces by ambulance planes on March 23 night, the health ministry said.
Medical supplies to Iran
Turkey also delivered medical supplies and medicines to Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
Medical aid sent by the Turkish Health Ministry and Iranians living in Turkey has reached the country’s capital Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry said on March 26.
Although the U.S. has not directly imposed sanctions on Iran's healthcare sector, sanctions on Iran’s banking sector and a lack of business with foreign companies that fear they will be included on U.S. sanctions lists if they cooperate with or help Iran make it difficult for Iran to import medical supplies and medicines.
So far, China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, some European countries and Japan have sent supplies to Iran.