Health minister says new cases at 'expected level' as four-day lockdown continues – live blog

Turkey’s official COVID-19 death toll has risen by 44 in the past 24 hours to 4,140, according to the Health Ministry’s latest data on Sunday, the second day of a four-day lockdown in 15 provinces.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca remained optimistic, highlighting new decline in the rate of new coronavirus cases in the country.

“Our new case number dropped to an expected level,” the minister tweeted.

The number of tests conducted since Saturday evening stood at 35,369, raising the total number of tests administered during Turkey’s outbreak to more than 1.62 million. Another 1,368 new cases were confirmed.

Meanwhile, the country’s recovery count rose by 1,825 to 109,962.

On Sunday, fifteen provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara, entered the second day of a four-day lockdown. Turkey’s now typical weekend curfew was extended to include a public holiday on May 19.

The number of provinces under lockdown on weekends and national holidays has dropped from 31 to 15. Other restrictions have also been eased recently, including the opening of malls, barbershops and hairdressers. 

Turkey’s Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy told private broadcaster NTV on Saturday that he expects domestic tourism to begin again after May 28 and international tourism to resume in mid-June if COVID-19 statistics are on a downward trend.

New certification programmes for compliance in government-sanctioned prevention measures have been implemented, Anadolu news agency quoted Ersoy as saying.

The certification covers “inspection, education and social distancing protocol”, he added.

(All times Turkish time - GMT+3)

18:00 - Turkey’s over 65 enjoy six hours outdoors

Photos and videos flooded Turkish social media of people aged 65 and over enjoying their limited time outdoors on Sunday.

Turkey’s elderly were allowed to leave their home for the second time for six hours on Sunday and groups of seniors roamed the streets, parks and walkways throughout the country.

The demographic, most at risk of developing serious COVID-19 symptoms, has been on lockdown in Turkey since March.

17:40 - Thirty pct of Turkey’s students not equipped with technology for distance learning

Three out of 10 Turkish university students do not have possession of technology allowing for them to properly participate in the distance-learning programme being implemented by schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

The fındings are the result of a survey by the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects conducted with 525 students from 57 universities, Birgün newspaper said.

One out of 10 students surveyed said they did not have a computer or smart device to help them with distance learning while four out of 10 students surveyed said they either had very bad or no internet at all.

Turkey’s students began distance learning due to COVID-19 in March.

15:25 - Almost 130 workers died due to COVID-19 since March, says work council

A total of 128 workers have died between March 11-May 10 after contracting the novel coronavirus, according to Turkey's Occupational Health and Safety Assembly (İSİG).

The average age of the workers who died due to COVID-19 was 50, with 119 being men and nine women, Diken news site quoted İSİG as saying in a written statement.

The largest number of workers’ deaths due to the virus took place in Istanbul, which suffered 78 casualties, followed by Kocaaeli with nine and Izmir with seven deaths.

Thirty-seven of those killed worked in the trade/office sector, followed by the health sector with 31 casualties.

14:55 - Turkey’s pandemic hospitals to be gradually reduced from next month

Turkey will start to loosen its COVID-19 measures in medical facilities and will gradually reduce the number of pandemic hospitals from June 1, in line with the president’s moves towards normalisation, Hürriyet newspaper said.

There will only be pandemic hospitals in provinces with relatively high rates of COVID-19 infections, such as Istanbul and Ankara, Hürriyet said.

In June, other hospitals will be able to accept patients as they did before the coronavirus outbreak.

14:15 - Interior Ministry announces increased traffic inspections during summer

Turkey’s Interior Ministry has sent a circular on summer traffic measures to all Turkish provinces, Cumhuriyet said.

The circular, which covers the period of June to October, said that traffic inspections will increase in the summer to ensure that the number of accidents do not rise as the traffic density increases. It said that a drop in accidents had been recorded due to measures taken to tackle the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The ministry said that controls on wearing seat belts, speeding, not using mobile phones, giving way to pedestrians at pedestrian crossings, using lanes correctly, and on wrong turns will be strictly enforced. Social distancing will be maintained during inspections, the ministry said.

Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on urban and intercity public transportation, such as a 50 percent occupancy limit and the mandatory wearing of face masks, will be closely monitored and enforced.

12:25 - Unknown whether COVID-19 can be spread in pools or sea, expert says

Tevfik Özlü, a member of the Turkish government’s coronavirus advisory Science Committee, has said it is not known whether COVID-19 can be spread in swimming pools or in the sea, news site Diken said.

“We do not have information on whether it has been spread in pools or the sea so far, but this does not mean that it is not spread this way. It is not clear how the virus will behave,” Özlü said.

12:00 - Turkey's health minister reminds elderly to wear masks when leaving the house

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has reminded elderly people to wear masks if they leave the house today. People aged 65 and over – who have been subject to a curfew for weeks – will be allowed to leave their homes on Sunday between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.

"To protect yourself, do not forget to wear a mask. And be sure to follow the 1.5 metre social distancing rule," Koca said on Twitter.

Koca also praised the elderly for enduring weeks under strict curfew and helping to curb the spread of COVID-19.

20:49 - Turkey confirms 41 new deaths, 1,610 cases in COVID-19 outbreak

Turkey on Saturday confirmed 41 deaths after contracting COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, marking the lowest daily death toll in the country in weeks.

Turkey saw 1,610 new cases in the same period, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in his daily announcement on Twitter.

“There is a decrease in the number of our patients in critical care who are dying,” Koca said.
The minister attributed the declining numbers to the government-imposed weekend lockdowns, urging citizens to remain at home.

A total of 42,236 people were tested for the novel coronavirus since Friday evening, while 2,004 recovered from COVID-19, according to the latest Health Ministry data.

The latest figures bring the country’s official death toll to 4,096 and the number of cases to 148,067.
Turkey ranks ninth place in the world for contagion of COVID-19.