Turkey to act on economy as coronavirus cases triple - live blog

Turkey will announce financial and economic measures to combat the impact of the coronavirus after saying the number of confirmed cases tripled to 18. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will outline the steps this week, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said on Monday. They will include ensuring liquidity to financial markets and support for individual sectors of the economy, particularly those most affected, he said. 

The decision follows a rise in cases of the virus reported by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Sunday. Seven of the12 new infected people came from Europe and three from the United States, state-run Anadolu news agency cited the minister as saying. Two people diagnosed had contact with Turkey's first case announced last Wednesday, Koca said.

Turkey has also suspended flights from nine European countries as of midnight on Sunday in a bid to stop the spread of the infection. The move to halt flights from Germany, Spain, France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands followed an emergency meeting of the government led by Vice President Fuat Oktay..

Earlier on Sunday, five Turkish citizens returning from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia were admitted to hospitals after exhibiting symptoms of the virus, the mayor of Turkey's capital Ankara Vasip Şahin said. The five are among 10,300 Turkish nationals returning from Mecca, who have now been placed in 14-day quarantine in university dormitories in Ankara and the the southern city of Konya in order to contain the spread.

The expected return of some 21,000 Turkish nationals from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia over the next few days has sparked fears that the virus will spread further through the country.

Also at the weekend, the Turkish authorities announced that they quarantined 57 Turkish passengers on an incoming flight from Baghdad to Istanbul on Friday, after diverting the plane to Ankara where Turkey handles coronavirus isolations. The 57 Turkish passengers were moved to a quarantine hospital in Ankara. Turkey had suspended air travel to and from Iraq as part of measures against the infection.

A total of nine civil society organisations have also called for preventative measures against the spread of the deadly coronavirus in Turkey’s prisons, Artı Gerçek news site reported on Saturday.

Turkey’s measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus include a temporary shut-down of schools, barring fans from sporting events and urging citizens returning from abroad to self-isolate.

Several state bodies have also announced paid leave for public workers, including the foreign ministry. Officials also said on Saturday that shopping centres would be open for reduced hours. Mosques remain open.

(All times local, GMT +3)




10:45 - Albayrak says Turkey to announce economic steps to combat coronavirus impact

Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said the country will outline economic and financial measures to combat the effects of the coronavirus.

The steps, to be announced this week, will include ensuring ample liquidity for financial markets and support for various sectors of the economy, Albayrak said in comments on Twitter on Monday.

The measures will be taken throughout the week by related ministries, the minister said.

00:54 - Turkey’s total coronavirus cases jump to 18

The total number of people diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus in Turkey is now 18, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

Seven of the new cases  reported on Sunday come from Europe and three are from the United States, state-run Anadolu news agency quoted the minister as saying.

Two people diagnosed with COVID-19 had contact with Turkey's first case, Koca added.

22:30 - Turkey closing bars, nightclubs, discos, says Interior Ministry

The Turkish Interior Ministry has announced that bars, nightclubs and discos nationwide would be closed effective 10 a.m. local time on Monday as part of an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Police will be monitoring establishments to ensure compliance, news site T24 quoted the ministry as saying. 


21:50 - Turkey to suspend flights from 9 European countries at midnight

Turkey is set to suspend flights from Germany, Spain, France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands as of midnight on Sunday, Diken news site reported. 

The move follows an emergency meeting of the government led by Vice President Fuat Oktay, it said. 

Turkish nationals in said countries will have until Tuesday at midnight to return to Turkey and will be kept in quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, Diken said. 

20:00 - Turkish Embassy in London calls on Turkish nationals to return home 

The Embassy of Turkey in London has called on Turkish nationals visiting the UK to return to Turkey as soon as possible.

"We advise our citizens who remain in the UK for a short-term visit (for the purposes of tourism, travel, language courses, etc.) to return to Turkey at the earliest possible date,’’ the embassy said in a statement posted on Twitter.

A total of 34 people have died from the virus in England, where the number of positive coronavirus tests reached 1,372 on Sunday.

18:00 - Turkish public libraries temporarily shut down 

All public libraries in Turkey will be closed between March 16 and March 30, Hürriyet newspaper reported on Sunday citing an announcement by the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

The move is one of many measures taken by Turkish authorities in recent days to keep ahead of the coronavirus outbreak that threatens the world.

17:40 - Foreign Ministry cancels holidays for staff of diplomatic missions

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has cancelled all holidays for the staff of diplomatic missions in a bid to better serve Turkish citizens living abroad amid fears surrounding the deadly coronavirus, Diken news site reported.

“We have cancelled all holidays. We have opened a second on-call [help] line for our citizens living in countries with high numbers of coronavirus cases,”  Diken quoted Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu as saying.

17:15 - Four Turkish citizens who returned from Mecca have coronavirus symptoms, says governor

Four Turkish citizens who returned from minor pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia have been tested for coronavirus after exhibiting symptoms, Ankara Governor Vasip Şahin said.

The Turkish capital is expecting another 1,700 pilgrims to be placed into quarantine by Sunday's end, Şahin said.

"We are expecting around 1,700 people. We have made our preparations for them," news site T24 quoted Şahin as saying.

The group will join the over 10,000 returnees who have already been quarantined in Ankara and Konya province.

16:52 - Death of Turkish columnists’ father upon return from Mecca sparks concern

The death of Haber7.com columnist Esra Elönü’s father on Sunday upon returning from Mecca has sparked concerns over coronavirus, news site T24 reported.

Şaban Elönü, 62, died of unknown causes on Sunday morning after returning from minor pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, where there were 103 cases of coronavirus as of Saturday evening. The Health Ministry has started an investigation into Elönü’s death and family members are under close monitoring, T24 said. 

Turkish officials on Sunday announced that they had quarantined 10,300 Turkish citizens returning from pilgrimages in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in university dormitories in Ankara and Konya in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.

16:10 - Turkey's top religious body says it banned pilgrimages since late February

The Directorate of Religious Affairs, Diyanet, said it had banned pilgrimages to Mecca since Feb. 27, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

"As of Feb. 27, 2020, Umrah departures from our country were stopped and no travel for Umrah was allowed after this date. Before the date of mention, warnings and directions were made for the return of our citizens in Saudi Arabia, and the return dates were brought forward if demanded," Diyanet said.

14:57 - Almost 3,000 people tested for COVID-19 in Turkey, says columnist

A total of 2,800 people in Turkey have been tested for the novel Coronavirus since the first diagnosis of a COVID-19 in the country, Habertürk columnist Muharrem Sarıkaya wrote citing data from the Health Ministry.

Because Turkey has a low number of confirmed cases, six as of Sunday, the Health Ministry has opted to refrain from scanning for coronavirus unless individuals carry symptoms, Sarıkaya said. 

13:40 - Main opposition party cancels parliamentary group meeting due to outbreak

Özgür Özel, the deputy head of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said the party cancelled its parliamentary group meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, as part of measures to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

13:30 - Father 'smuggles' daughter from possible quarantine

Father of a five-year-old girl smuggled her daughter from a hospital in the western province of Düzce after doctors said the girl should be referred to another hospital for quarantine due to coronavirus infection, Birgün newspaper reported on Sunday.

The police caught the father, who came to Turkey from Germany 10 days ago, while he was trying to escape by car and the girl was hospitalised, the daily said.

The father was taken into custody but later released, saying that he got into a panic.

12:45 - Turkish pasta producers reassure public 

Following panic buying due to the coronavirus outbreak, Turkish pasta producers have sought to reassure the public after pasta started being sold online at an inflated rate.

Nihat Uysallı, President of the Pasta Manufacturers' Association and Nuhun Ankara General Manager, told Hürriyet newspaper that the domestic market consumption is 650,000 tons per year, the production capacity is 2.9 million tons, and there are almost 900,000 tons in reserve stock, with exports being temporarily suspended.

"No one should panic. Every home will be drowning in pasta", said Uysallı.

12:15 - Turkish citizens returning from mecca quarantined in dormitories

The Youth and Sports Ministry said that 10,300 Turkish citizens returning from pilgrimages in Mecca, Saudi Arabia have been placed in 14-day quarantine in university dormitories in Ankara and Konya in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday.

A Turkish citizen returning from Islamic pilgrimage in Mecca in the last week had tested positive for the virus said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Twitter on Saturday. 

Around 21,000 Turkish nationals are expected to return from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia over the next few days.

10:30 – Northern Cyprus announces sixth confirmed coronavirus case

The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on Sunday confirmed the sixth case of the COVID-19 in the northern third of the island it controls, T24 said.

The Turkish Cypriot administration has suspended flights from 23 countries, allowing only inbound flights from Turkey and Britain on condition passengers undergo a 14-day period of quarantine.

Turkish Cypriot authorities on Thursday shut two of the nine border gates with the Republic of Cyprus, which had previously shut four gates.

10:00 - Ruling party figures do not follow health minister's instructions

Despite Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca's instruction to follow 14-day self-isolation after returning from the pilgrimage, AKP figures shared photos of themselves meeting groups of people.