Turkey ramps up virus measures as confirmed cases reach 47
Turkey will hold an emergency meeting to be chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 18 to coordinate the fight against the novel coronavirus, Turkey’s presidential communications director has said.
“President Erdoğan will head an extensive urgent coordination meeting on the fight with coronavirus. Following the meeting, he will tell the public about future steps to be taken,” Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter.
Turkey announced new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus late March 16 as it continued efforts to curb its spread. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 29 more people have been diagnosed with the virus, bringing the total number in Turkey to 47.
He said the new cases come from contacts abroad: The U.S., Middle East and Europe and three were from among pilgrims returning from the umrah pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. “Overseas contact will continue to be a risk,” Koca noted, adding the importance of applying measures strictly.
“Every new diagnosis is sad, but it is assurance for you. In outbreaks, things get out of control with panic. Measure and panic are opposite of each other. Let’s keep the measures tight,” he added. Ankara also extended a flight ban to six more countries including Britain and the United Arab Emirates, bringing the total number of countries to 20, the health minister said.
Turkey will temporarily close cafes, sports, and entertainment venues and is suspending mass prayers in mosques in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“As of midnight Monday [on March 16] all operations of cafes, cinemas, gyms ... will be suspended,” the Interior Ministry said on late March 16, citing the heightened risk of passing on the virus in “public recreation areas and entertainment venues.”
Swimming pools, concert and wedding venues, and some restaurants will be closed, the ministry said, and all activities and gatherings of non-governmental organizations will be postponed. It did not say how long the suspension would last.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül urged citizens traveling from Europe to stay at their homes for a 14-day self-isolation, saying doing otherwise is an “offense.”
“Behaviors that threaten public health, such as not abiding by a quarantine, is an offense by our penal code,” he said.
“Please be careful, not with the fear of penalty but for the future of our children and country,” he said.
Turkey’s precautions against the novel coronavirus also extended to its military as Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced a permanent recess for military schools.
Akar also said that guests will not be allowed into military quarters or units.
National and international military exercises are also suspended, Akar said, adding that temporary foreign missions are also halted until further notice.
The military personnel who are currently overseas will be subjected to medical examination upon their return and will not be in contact with other personnel for a period of time, the minister added.
Amid restrictions on mass gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak, Turkey’s parliament will continue to work this week, but may consider a recess at the weekend, said the parliament speaker on March 17.
“Work will continue this week, at least until the end of debate on a recent bill, after which we will evaluate the situation,” Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop told reporters in parliament.
Last week parliament barred visitors to help stem the virus’ spread and weekly group meetings were cancelled.