Turkey steps up coronavirus measures as death toll hits 4
Turkey confirmed late on March 19 its fourth death related to the coronavirus and the country nearly doubled its confirmed cases to 359, from 191 a day earlier.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter that an 85-year-old woman died due to the novel coronavirus.
Koca also said that Turkey carried out 1,981 coronavirus tests in the last 24 hours and 168 people have been tested positive.
Earlier on March 19, Koca confirmed the third fatality from the COVID-19, an 80-year-old former commander of the Turkish land forces.
Turkey confirms former general died from coronavirus, as death toll rises to 3
Online access to COVID-19 test results
Health Ministry on March 20 announced that those tested for the novel coronavirus will be able to access their results via an online health database.
The state portal "enabiz.gov.tr" which users can gain access to with a password, gathers patients' medical records, including diagnostic reports, prescribed medication and eases communication with doctors.
The Health Ministry also launched a website, called Corona Information, which helps people assess whether they are at risk or not.
People, who visit the site, need to answer several questions for risk assessment, such as whether they have been to a foreign country over the past 14 days or they traveled abroad, whether they have contacted anyone with respiratory illness or they have any underlying medical conditions and whether they show any symptoms of the coronavirus disease.
Within the first hour after the launch of the website, some 100,000 accessed the site.
The English version of the website is expected to come online soon.
No cases in prisons
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül stated that there were no coronavirus cases in prisons in Turkey.
“Measures were taken to prevent the prisoners from the risk,” he told reporters on March 20.
Disinfectant products are provided free of charge and all supplies were presented by the prison administration, he told the reporters.
Elaborating on the possibility of the suspension of punishment execution, the minister said they had carried out work after exchanging views with relevant parties.
The issue is up to parliament, Gül noted.
“These arrangements, which are approaching on a more human basis, will come into force at the discretion of parliament,” he noted.
Additional measures to curb spread
On March 11, Turkey became the last major economy to report a case of the coronavirus.
The Turkish government has been implementing strict measures since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, from flight bans to schools temporarily closing.
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Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on March 19 that some 9,800 people are currently under quarantine in Turkey.
Soylu said the number of quarantined people, including pilgrims who returned from the Umrah pilgrimage from Saudi Arabia, is 9,800 across the country.
Protective gear for soldiers
Turkey on March 20 distributed protective clothing, rubber gloves, and face masks among its border units to protect them from the coronavirus pandemic, the Defense Ministry said on March 20.
In a statement, the Defense Ministry said soldiers were briefed on ways to remain protected from the virus, including the measures to be taken during contact with individuals crossing the border illegally.
The ministry also posted photographs showing soldiers, donned in protective gear, patrolling and getting their temperature checked.
Businesses suspend operation
Nearly 150,000 businesses across Turkey have suspended their operations as part of measures the government has taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this week, authorities ordered the temporary closure of bars, cafes, movie theaters, wedding and event venues and indoor children's play areas.
The Interior Ministry has sent instructions to the governorates in the country's 81 provinces, which aim at protecting the public from the pandemic and containing the spread of the virus.
Criminal complaints have been issued for 37 business owners and 187 shops that refused to comply with the newly introduced regulations and have been forced to reclose, the Interior Ministry has said.
According to data from the ministry, nearly 3,000 bars, 2,000 pubs, 6,000 venues belonging to associations, 133 nightclubs, 1,400 public Turkish baths, 8,000 internet cafes, 18,0000 cafeterias, 57,000 coffeehouses, 62 concert venues, 4,000 wedding venues, around 450 movie theaters, 3,500 gyms, and 580 swimming pools suspended their operations between March 15 and March 18.
Fines were imposed on 150 businesses which refused to cease operations despite the government's coronavirus prevention-related regulations, the ministry detailed.
Shorter, flexible work hours
Turkey will support flexible and shorter work hours for employees in order to limit the time they spend outdoors as part of measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the country's labor, social services and family minister said on March 20.
"We will provide flexibility in certain conditions to make it more beneficial to all sectors," Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk told state-run Anadolu Agency.
She added that the basic state pension will also be increased from 1,000 Turkish liras ($154) to 1,500 Turkish liras ($231) in line with the relief package announced on March 18.
“Based on the results of an income questionnaire conducted by the Social Assistance Solidarity Foundations, we will distribute 2 billion liras [$308 million] to assist the lowest-income segment,” Selçuk said.
“We increased the periodical shares of 1,003 social solidarity foundations in Turkey, so we will have further increased supports to the elders,” she added.
Selçuk said fever measurements and health scans of elderly people are carried out on a daily basis in all the retirement homes in Turkey.
She added that the number of healthcare professionals and doctors working in retirement homes will also be increased.
Support to farmers
The Turkish government will provide over 1.5 billion Turkish Liras of agricultural aid to farmers, the agriculture and forestry minister has said.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Bekir Pakdemirli said that a total of 1.57 billion liras will be paid to the country’s farmers, as part of agricultural aid.
Pakdemirli said that the payments will be distributed to the farmers on different days, based on the last digit of the national ID numbers.
The first payment will be made on March 20 after 600 p.m. (1500GMT), the minister said.
“We have a total of 1.5 billion liras of support. We have aid for diesel fuel, corn, grains, and legumes,” he said.
Pakdemirli also said that the government will grant financial aid to 503 projects, an investment of 450 million liras. The results will be published online, he added.
“We are providing support to 16 investments in 42 provinces,” he added.
No problem in food supply
Regarding the recent “stocking” trend caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the minister said that Turkey has no problem with a food supply.
“Turkey is a self-sufficient country. We have enough supply in meat, milk, and legumes. We do not have any deficiencies in farming or hunting. If deemed, we will take precautions,” he said.
Pakdemirli also urged citizens to stay calm and do grocery shopping per day, rather than stocking.
“Stocking means products with expired dates. There is no need to panic. Going to the supermarkets for stocking is not right,” he said.
Ministry to hire staff
The Treasury and Finance Ministry will recruit 2,000 junior revenue specialists, tax inspectors, finance experts and lawyers in the upcoming weeks.
“We are opening new positions to our colleagues who want to join our struggle for our economy,” said Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak on his Twitter account on March 20.
Horse races, sports competitions halted
Turkey has halted all horse races across the country amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the agriculture and forestry minister said on March 20.
The move aims to stem the coronavirus outbreak, Pakdemirli wrote on Twitter.
On March 19 the country suspended all competitions in four major sports: football, basketball, handball, and volleyball.