Turkey starts using drug from China for coronavirus
“From this morning we have brought a special drug used in China which is claimed to have resulted in improvements in intensive care patients, cutting their time in care from 11-12 days to four days,” Fahrettin Koca told a press conference in the capital Ankara.
He did not give more information on the drug, but the anti-malarial drug chloroquine has recently been used to treat coronavirus patients in China as well as in France.
Some researchers have said chloroquine is very promising, though scientists have agreed that more trials are needed to determine if the drug is really effective and safe.
Furthermore, Turkey also received some 50,000 rapid detection kits from China on March 23 and had begun using them, the minister said. An additional 300,000 kits are expected to arrive in Turkey by March 26, he added.
“We have made arrangements to use up to one million kits.”
The minister added that the Chinese government agreed with Turkey to share information on the novel coronavirus as the two countries step up cooperation to fight against the pandemic.
In the meantime, Turkey has dispatched 26,000 test kits for the novel coronavirus to Colombia, the latter’s National Institute of Food and Drug Monitoring (INVIMA) said on Mach 24.
INVIMA said in a statement that the kits arrived on March 22, enabling the country to run tests quicker and more efficiently.
INVIMA Director Julio Cesar Aldana Bula thanked the Turkish government for its support.
Koca announced late on March 23 that the number of confirmed cases rose by 293 to 1,529, with a total of more than 24,000 tests carried out on people.
Turkey imposed stricter restrictions on March 24 on grocery store opening hours and numbers of customers going to markets and passengers getting on buses, adding to steps to combat the spread of coronavirus.
The Turkish government has already been taking many precautions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, from closing schools, bars, banning mass prayers and indefinitely postponing matches in the main sports leagues.
Turkish Airlines also announced that it will halt international flights as of March 27, except those to Hong Kong, Moscow, Ethiopia, New York, and Washington.
In the latest moves, the Interior Ministry said grocery stores and supermarkets’ opening hours will be limited to between 9 a.m. (0600 GMT) and 9 p.m. (2100 GMT), with a maximum of one customer for every 10 square meters of the shop space.
Buses within towns and between cities will not be allowed to exceed 50 percent of the vehicle’s capacity, with space to be kept between the passengers, the ministry’s statement said.
There had been speculation that Koca might announce a state of emergency, but he urged Turks to “announce their own state of emergency,” as he insisted citizens adhere to measures already announced by Ankara.
Virus spread across the country
Koca did not detail where the positive cases were, but he said it has spread across the country.
“The cases were mostly from abroad initially, but I can say that through contacts, it has increased ... I can say it has spread almost across the whole country,” the minister said.
He said there were fewer than 10 cases in eastern Van province, which borders Iran, one of the countries worst hit by the virus. He also said some health workers had caught the coronavirus, without giving figures.
Conveying that most of the victims in Turkey to date have been the elderly, Koca added that two were aged 50-60, one was 91, and all the others were older than 61.
“In the coming days, we will be announcing the number of recovering cases every day. I want to note that we have a large number of people who have recovered,” Koca said.
32,000 more medics to be employed
Koca also said that Turkey will hire 32,000 more medical staff and stop exporting locally-made face masks so its own services can use them.
The minister added said that large-scale production of Turkish-made ventilators is the country’s next step against the coronavirus.
“We’re starting the mass production of domestic [respirator] devices,” Koca said.