Erdoğan announces new measures as Turkey's COVID-19 death toll climbs to 92 - live blog

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan late on Friday announced further measures in Turkey’s fight against the coronavirus. The measures are as follows:

  • Travel between provinces will be allowed with permits to be obtained from governorates.
  • All overseas flights have been suspended.
  • Soldier drafts and discharges will comply with the 14-day quarantine rule.
  • The public and private sectors will switch to a flexible working system with minimum personnel.
  • Provincial governorates will establish pandemic councils to follow the implementation of measures, and decide on further measures if necessary.
  • Picnic sites, forests, recreational areas will not open on weekends, and will avoid crowded gatherings during the week.

"If we do not want these new measures to progress to further points, then we must comply with the voluntary quarantine and do not leave home," President Erdoğan said. "We have seen many examples in the world of what great calamities await us if we don't follow the rules. Look what the U.S. has come to."

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced earlier in Friday's press conference that the number of new coronavirus cases had risen by 2,069, bringing the total number of people diagnosed to 5,698. The death toll of people with the virus in Turkey rose to 92 after 17 people died on Friday.

Turkey has administered a total of 47,823 tests, 7,533 in the last 24 hours, Koca said. According to the numbers the minister announced, the ratio of positive cases to overall tests was 11.91 percent, while the same ratio for the last 24 hours was more than double, at 27.46 percent.

Turkey's intensive care units are 37 to 38 percent free at the moment, Koca announced. The number covers all ICU beds in all public and private hospitals, including those that are not capable of treating COVID-19 cases.

Koca also spoke about Dilek Tahtalı, the 33-year-old medical secretary who lost her life on March 25.

Tahtalı had come into contact with a family member of the first coronavirus case identified in Turkey, and had several chronic illnesses, Minister Koca said. Before the contact, the healthcare worker had a fever and showed symptoms of a seasonal cold, according to the minister. She went to a private hospital to seek treatment, where she infected a 58-year-old person, who died during treatment in the ICU. The person who infected these two people is alive and well, Koca said, adding that the case was an example of the importance to isolate carriers before they come into contact with immunocompromised people.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan remains under increasing pressure to announce a strict lockdown as coronavirus cases surge in Turkey, while Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Friday announced new measures including restricted travel.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu called on the government to impose a stricter curfew on the city as, despite warnings about the danger of spreading the coronavirus, more than a million people had used public transport in Turkey’s largest city during the most critical period to halt the epidemic.

Board members of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) have reportedly urged Erdoğan in a letter to announce a strict, national lockdown so that the spread of the virus could be slowed quickly – allowing businesses to plan for a defined period of slowdown, to be followed by a quicker rebound, said Bloomberg on Friday.

The Turkish Medical Association has also warned the government’s isolation measures are insufficient and called on it to provide workers with paid leave in order to prevent millions of people mingling as they went to work.

Turkish Airlines has suspended its flights to New York as of Friday, leaving the national flag carrier with just four routes in service during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. embassy in Turkey on Thursday had urged American citizens in Turkey to leave the country as soon as possible.

All times GMT+3

00:30 - Turkish Health Ministry launches coronavirus monitoring website

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Friday night shared in a tweet current numbers related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in Turkey, and announced the launch of a ministry website to inform the public of daily developments.  

Many in Turkey have been unable to access the website, possibly due to too much traffic.

00:15 - Turkey’s rate for number of cases far worse than Italy – observer

Turkey’s detected coronavirus cases have increased at almost double speed as of Friday, the 17th day since the first official diagnosis, compared to Italy after the same amount of time passed since its first confirmed case.

Italy, one of the two current epicentres of the global pandemic along with Spain, had recorded a total of 2,036 cases 17 days after the first confirmed case, according to statistics website Worldometers, while the number of cases in Turkey was announced as 5,698 on Friday.

The first case was diagnosed on Jan 31 in Italy, 40 days before Turkey’s first diagnosis, and the country has registered 86,498 cases to date, with 9,134 deaths.

23:30 - Turkish doctors urge health ministry to better protect healthcare workers

Turkish Medical Association (TTB), Turkey’s biggest professional organisation for doctors, posed a list of urgent demands over the coronavirus pandemic to the Health Ministry in an open letter on Friday.

TTB’s demands were as follows:
-       The process should be handled in an open and transparent way.
-       Doctors should inform patients of their test results within the same day.
-       There should be no hiccups regarding workplace order and protective equipment.
-       All doctors and healthcare workers, starting with those in contact with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, should be regularly tested.
“We have been demanding personal protective equipment for all healthcare workers, and improvement of working conditions and shift durations since the beginning of the pandemic,” the letter said. “Some improvements have come, however, vital shortcomings continue.”

22:55 - Health workers are no longer allowed to quit, Health Ministry says

Healthcare workers in both public and private institutions will not be allowed to resign from their posts for the next three months, as per new measures announced by the Health Ministry via a notice on Friday.

"As part of our country's fight against the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the continuation of healthcare personnel in the medical establishments as it currently stands is imperative for the sustainability of healthcare services," the ministry statement said.

22:00 - Turkey has steepest rise in new COVID-19 cases in the world, analysis shows

The rise in Turkey’s COVID-19 coronavirus cases has been the steepest, according to an analysis of growth curves per country since reaching 100 cases.

“Because the necessary measures of quarantine and widespread testing have not been implemented, Turkey has the steepest curve in the world,” Emrah Altındiş, a Turkish professor from Harvard University’s Medical Faculty, said in a tweet. “Difficult days await our country for the next 2 to 4 weeks.”

21:14 - President Erdoğan to hold press conference 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will hold a press conference at 22:00, when he is expected to announce Turkey's new measures against the rapidly spreading COVID-19 coronavirus.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca in his daily press conference said the ministry's Coronavirus Science Council had advised Erdoğan to "minimise mobility."

19:00 - Ankara to give support for local citizens in need

Ankara Metropolitan Municipality will provide food aid and financial support to those who lost their incomes due to the coronavirus pandemic, the capital’s opposition mayor Mansur Yavaş said on Friday.

"Today is the day for solidarity," Yavaş tweeted, adding details of the process will be announced on Monday.

14:00 - Turkey delivers medical supplies to Iran
The Turkish Health Ministry and Iranians living in Turkey have sent medical supplies and medicine to Iran to help combat the coronavirus outbreak, Anadolu news agency said.

While the United States has not directly imposed sanctions on Iran’s healthcare sector, Iran has still struggled to import medical supplies due to sanctions on its banking and commercial sectors.

So far, China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, some European countries, and Japan have sent medical supplies to Iran, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.

13:45 - Syrian refugees make medical masks for Turkey
Syrian women refugees in Turkey are making medical masks to help combat the coronavirus, state run Anadolu news agency said.

The Syrian volunteers are working at a vocational training centre run by the Turkish charity Humanitarian Relief Foundation in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa.

The masks are made of reusable silk fabric, Anadolu said.

13:20 - Netflix takes measures to ease internet traffic in Turkey

Netflix has taken measures it says will reduce the company’s internet traffic by 25 percent while maintaining the quality of service, said Anadolu news agency.

Internet traffic in Turkey has become heavier as more people are staying at home due to the coronavirus.

"Despite this decrease in traffic, our members can continue to benefit from Ultra High Resolution (UHD), High Resolution (HD) or Standard Resolution (SD) options within the scope of their preferred plan,” said Ken Florance, vice president for content delivery at Netflix.

He said these measures would continue to be applied in Turkey for the next 30 days and said he believed it would provide a significant relief for Turkey’s telecommunications networks.

13:05 - Turkish inmates lodge flood of complaints about coronavirus risk

The prisoner rights group Civil Society in the Penal System (CISST) has received complaints from 26 prisons in Turkey about the risk from the coronavirus.

While the government has not yet confirmed a coronavirus case in prison, many prisoners complained to CISST about overcrowded cells and common spaces, such as cafeterias.

CISST also received many complaints about poor hygiene standards in prisons, including low levels of disinfection, a lack of access to cleaning supplies and sanitisers, prison officers failing to wear masks, a lack of masks and gloves for prisoners, dirty bathrooms, limited hot water, and a failure to properly quarantine some new inmates in some prisons.

Some inmates complained of poor nutrition and inadequate medical treatment for patients with fevers.

12:25 - Turkey imposes new measures at markets to stop virus spread

The Turkish Interior Ministry has imposed new measures at street markets to contain the spread of the coronavirus, said Anadolu news agency.

Markets will have to close by 7 p.m. and municipalities must ensure that traders and customers have access to hand sanitisers.

The sale of clothing, toys and similar non-essential items will not be allowed in markets that sell food and cleaning products.

Hygiene standards will be enforced by the police and market stalls must be placed at least three metres apart.

12:00 - Turkey struggles to ramp up coronavirus tests in critical phase

Turkey has struggled to ramp up testing for the coronavirus as doctors warn the country has reached a critical point in the outbreak, Reuters said.

Since Turkey reported its first coronavirus case on March 11, the government has failed to meet its target of conducting 10,000 tests a day.

“Our test numbers are low. We were certainly not prepared. Countries that are ready must have high test numbers,” Sinan Adıyaman, chairman of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), told Reuters.

About 40,000 coronavirus tests have been done in Turkey including about 7,000 in the last 24 hours, said Reuters.

11:45 - Turkish business leaders call for more economic steps to combat virus

Turkey’s top business leaders have called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to introduce stronger measures to boost support for the economy and contain the coronavirus outbreak, said Bloomberg.

In a letter to the Turkish president, board members of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) said they were concerned by a lack of guidance from the government on how long the economy would be operating under a slowdown. 

One solution reportedly discussed by the group’s board would be to announce a strict, national lockdown so that the spread of the virus could be slowed quickly – allowing businesses to plan for a defined period of slowdown, to be followed by a quicker rebound.

11:25 - Diyarbakır hospital opens its doors to health workers

The Demir Hotel in Diyarbakır province, in southeast Turkey, has followed a famous Istanbul hotel’s lead by opening its rooms free of charge to health workers battling the coronavirus.

Earlier this week the Marmara Hotel in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square said it was devoting a section of its facilities to health workers at nearby hospitals.

10:30 - Turkish Airlines suspends flights to New York

Turkish Airlines has suspended its flights to New York as of Friday, leaving the national flag carrier with just four routes in service during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

New York has seen the largest number of coronavirus cases in the United States, which became the country with the highest number of officially recorded cases on Thursday, with more than 82,000.

The airline will continue its flights to Washington, Hong Kong, Moscow and Addis Ababa.

23:20 - Highest rate of positive test results in a day

Thursday's coronavirus test results had the highest proportion of positive diagnoses since testing began in Turkey at 16.41 percent, compared to just over 11 percent on Wednesday.

23:10 - 1,196 new coronavirus diagnoses, 16 deaths

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced the day's new statistics, recording a large rise in the number of COVID-19 cases on Thursday that brought the total number of cases to 3,629. The 16 deaths that day raised the total death toll to 75.

Some 7,286 test results came back over the last day, Koca said.

Test sayımız dün 5.035’ti. BUGÜN 7.286 olarak gerçekleşti. 1.196 yeni tanı kondu. Hastalar ve temas çevreleri izole edildi. 16 hastamızı kaybettik. Bu sonuçlarla can kaybımız 75’e, hasta sayımız 3.629’a ulaştı. Sizi ısrarla tedbirleri uygulamaya davet ediyorum.

— Dr. Fahrettin Koca (@drfahrettinkoca) March 26, 2020