Turkish civil aviation authority suspends all flights to and from Iran

(Releads with new suspension, changes throughout)

The Turkish civil aviation authority suspended on Wednesday all flights, including private, cargo and charter flights, to and from Iran, which is scrambling to contain a coronavirus outbreak, Sabah newspaper reported.

Passenger-free Iranian carriers may arrive in the country to transport Iranian passengers, but will not carry Turkish nationals, in the only exception to the new policy, Cumhuriyet newspaper later cited the Directorate General of Civil Aviation as saying. 

The move follows a decision by Ankara on Tuesday to close its border with Iran and halt incoming commercial flights as a precaution to stop the potential spread of coronavirus.

Nineteen people have been confirmed dead in Iran, the highest number of coronavirus fatalities outside China, whose Hubei province is the epicentre of the disease.

Turkish officials announced on Wednesday that there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country.

News site T24 has reported that the country is preparing to set up a field hospital at a border gate with neighbouring Iran in the east of the country.

The hospital will be located at Kapıköy Border Gate in the eastern province of Van and is geared to hold under medical supervision all Turkish citizens arriving at the gate from Iran, where there are 139 confirmed cases of coronavirus,  T24 said. 

The Deputy Health Minister of Iran, Iraj Harirchi,and an Iranian MP have both tested positive for the virus as local officials accuse Tehran of downplaying the spread of the coronavirus in the country and failing to report the real number of dead and infected.