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Government strives to contain coronavirus as Turkish cases triple


ISTANBUL – The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Turkey tripled overnight to 18 Monday, and the government has launched a list of restrictions to curb the spread of the pandemic that has enveloped much of the world.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted overnight that Turkey had 12 other cases new coronavirus, including seven people from European countries and three from the United States. At least six people have been infected by a man from Europe who received the country's first diagnosis less than a week ago.

The indefinite closure of bars and nightclubs started on Monday and was quickly followed by another decree shuttering dozens of public spaces, from theaters to tea gardens, swimming pools and baths, in a dramatic attempt to prevent large groups from gathering and spreading the virus. Schools are closed for two weeks and dorms are emptied to serve as potential quarantine centers.

Courts have postponement of hearings except for emergencies or to decide on arrest warrants and visits to the national prison population of some 282,000 people have been interrupted, said the Minister of Justice. Spectators are prohibited football games and libraries, art galleries and driving schools are closing.

So far, Turkey has had no deaths from the virus and its number of infections is lower than that of small European and Middle Eastern neighbors. Nearly 170,000 cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, have been recorded around the world since the end of last year, more than 6,500 people have died as the world prepares for the medical, economic and political fallout from the rapid emergency.

The Turkish government's early decision to suspend travel from China, where the epidemic started, and with Italy and Iran, which have the second and third highest infection rates in the world, may have be helped slow the spread of the virus here, analysts said.

But a major medical group warned on Monday that it was receive reports the number of Turkish coronavirus patients may be "much higher" than the official number. Sinan Adiyaman, head of the Turkish Medical Association, said that the 7,000 tests that Turkey has carried out so far are far too low at this point and the government needs to decentralize testing to detect more cases.

"When we look at the rate of contagion, it is clear that the next two weeks are very critical. With the expectation that the number of cases will increase rapidly, taking the necessary precautions is now of vital importance, "said Adiyaman at a live press conference.

At the end of last week, the government suspended flights with nine other European countries and set a deadline on Wednesday for Turkish citizens to evacuate at home. A pilgrim returning from holy places in Saudi Arabia was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 15.

More than 20,000 people who traveled to Saudi Arabia for Umrah have now returned to Turkey. Social media posts revealed that some ignored the government's suggestion that all overseas travelers self-quarantined for two weeks and were instead meet friends and family, as is the tradition after the pilgrimage.

The authorities then decided on Sunday quarantine more than 10,000 pilgrims in the capital Ankara and the central cities of Konya and Kayseri. The chief religious officer said on Monday that prayers in mosques would not be held for large congregations, but places of worship would remain open to individuals. It is estimated that 15 million people normally attend Friday prayers each week.

Stock markets around the world fell on Monday and fears about the global economic impact of the epidemic spread to Turkish assets, with stocks falling 8% and the lira sliding to its lowest level since September 2018, while Turkey was still struggling against a plunging monetary crisis. the country in a recession last year

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak has promised to ensure market liquidity and additional assistance for the most affected sectors. Turkey “is more prepared and vigilant than ever for possible global turbulence, "he tweeted, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will detail the measures to be taken to support the economy this week.

Erdogan has not been seen in public since last week. He must hold a teleconference with leaders of France, Germany and Britain on Tuesday to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis after the coronavirus emergency forced them to abandon plans for a summit in person in Istanbul.

The main opposition party, the Republican People's Party, postponed its annual meeting scheduled for later this month, raising concerns about the virus. All four canceled political parties their group meetings in parliament this week and the legislature is closed to visitors.

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quarantine, covid-19, health care in turkey, public health, epidemics, coronavirus

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