Turkey confirms 23 new deaths from coronavirus, total cases spike to 9,217 - live blog

Turkey on Sunday confirmed 23 new deaths and 1,815 new cases from the novel coronavirus, raising the total number of positive diagnoses to 9,217.

The official total number of people who have died with COVID-19 in Turkey is 131, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter.

Turkey has conducted 9,982 tests within the last 24 hours, the ministry said.

As of Sunday, a total of 568 coronavirus patients in the country remain in intensive care and 105 have recovered.

The total coronavirus tests carried out so far stand at 65,446.

Turkey is among the nations with the highest rate of increase in COVID-19 cases, doubling each day, according to data provided by John Hopkins University.

Citizens have complied with calls by the Turkish government to remain at home, but a full lockdown remains an option if necessary, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Sunday.

Turkey’s test-to-diagnosis ratio for detecting coronavirus was 27.46 percent on March 27, up from 11.14 percent on Wednesday, former Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmaker Sinan Oğan said. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan late on Friday announced new measures to combat the spread of the virus, including the suspension of all overseas flights. Permits obtained from governorates are now required for intercity travel.

Recreational sites will be closed during weekends, and large groups will not be allowed in on weekdays. The governors of Turkey’s 30 largest cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, were granted greater powers to implement the limitations, Erdoğan announced.

The Turkish president also said that the public and private sectors will switch to a flexible working system with minimum personnel. Soldiers coming in or leaving the army will have to comply with the 14-day quarantine rule, he said.

"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," Erdoğan said.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Saturday called for a stricter nation-wide lockdown. "It is evident at the point we have reached today that there is need for a wide, comprehensive and effective lockdown and quarantine," said Kılıçdaroğlu.

Turkish Airlines has moved to limit the number domestic flights to 14 cities in Turkey. 
As of Sunday, the airlines will only fly to Istanbul, Ankara, Samsun, Trabzon, Erzurum, Van, Diyarbakır, Malatya, Gaziantep, Kayseri, Konya, Adana, Antalya and Izmir.

(All times local, GMT+3)

00:00 - Eighteen medical staff diagnosed with coronavirus in Ankara , medical group says

Eighteen health workers in the capital were diagnosed with coronavirus, said Ankara’s Chamber of Medicine on Twitter.

“We sense that the figures are much higher than this,” the group said in a statement. “We ask the Health Ministry to be transparent and to share the right information with all segments of the society and healthcare professionals.

“We reiterate our demand that all health care workers fighting the pandemic be regularly tested and that their protective equipment be provided in full,” it tweeted.

22:10 - Istanbul’s death inquiry system blocked after MP points to discrepancy

The Istanbul municipality’s online death inquiry system was blocked after an opposition member of parliament pointed to a discrepancy in the number of Turkey’s coronavirus-related deaths, Birgün newspaper reported. 

Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Veli Ağbaba said that an e-Devlet (e-State) database, managed by the Health Ministry, showed the total number of coronavirus deaths in the country on Saturday was less than Istanbul’s toll on the same day.

“Twenty people lost their lives due to the coronavirus in Istanbul. Their names are on the e-Devlet (e-State) website. Twenty people die due to the virus in one province in a day, but it is said that a total of 16 people died in 81 provinces. This is a scandal,” Ağbaba said on Twitter.

21:49 - Galatasaray’s Terim, two administrators test negative for coronavirus

Galatasaray’s football club manager, Fatih Terim, vice-president Abdurrahim Albayrak and council board member Tunç Üner have all tested negative for coronavirus a week after being hospitalised over COVID-19, Diken news site reported.

The three are among a string of football personalities that were diagnosed with the deadly virus last week, sparking a debate on the country’s top football body’s delayed response to the pandemic.

21:55 – Interior Ministry introduces measures to curb taxi traffic in major cities

Commercial taxis will be limited from transport duties in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, the Interior Ministry said.

Starting from midnight Monday, only taxis with license plates ending in an odd number will be allowed to work, followed by only even-numbered plates at midnight the next day, in an alternating fashion, state news Anadolu Agency said, citing the ministry.

20:49 - Turkey won’t hesitate in full lockdown if necessary, says interior minister

Citizens have complied with calls by the Turkish government to remain at home, but a full lockdown remains an option if necessary, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Sunday.

“We have attained social isolation … Both Istanbul and Ankara are completely empty. There has been a 60-70 percent decrease in use of public transportation,” T24 quoted Soylu as saying. 

“We could implement a lockdown. But this will not include [those working in] security, health and food providers,‘’ he added. 

The Turkish government has urged Turkish citizens to stay at home, unless grocery shopping or basic needs to help contain the pandemic.

20:14 - Turkey’s economy to recover from pandemic with deceleration of virus spread - central bank

Turkey’s economy will see a quick recovery when the spread of the COVID-19 virus loses speed, Oğuzhan Özbaş, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Turkey said.

“We are expecting high-rate growth in the first quarter due to a strong course in January and February,‘’ T24 news site quoted Özbaş as saying.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 18 unveiled a 100-billion-lira ($15.4 billion) stimulus package to support Turkey’s economy during the pandemic.

19:00 - Lawyer files criminal complaint against president of Turkey's top football body 

A Turkish lawyer in the country’s central province of Kayseri has filed a criminal complaint against the president of the Turkish Football Federation for refusing to cancel the football season during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nihat Özdemir has put athletes and their families at risk, leading to many cases of COVID-19, news site T24 quoted the lawyer as saying.

Despite calls for an immediate halt to the season, the Turkish Süper Lig was suspended after playing one game behind closed doors following the first coronavirus case in Turkey on March 11.

17:50 - Istanbul governor says officials conducting health checks at city border

All those entering and exiting the city of Istanbul are undergoing health checks, the city’s Governor Ali Yerlikaya said on Twitter.

Those with symptoms of COVID-19 will be placed in quarantines in locations set up by the governor’s office, he said. 

17:15 - Istanbul transport body quarantines seven employees

The transportation boy of Istanbul, IETT, has placed seven employees exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 into quarantine, Karar newspaper reported. 

The move follows medical screening at Istanbul’s Edirnekapı and Kağıthane bus terminals, Karar said.

16:50 - Truck driver detained for social media post on 'stay at home' call

Turkish police have detained a truck driver in the southern province of Hatay for a social media post in which he criticised the government for urging people to stay home.

Malik Yılmaz was detained for inciting to break the law through a video, in which he says despite a call by the government he cannot stay home during the pandemic as he must work to provide for his family, Birgün newspaper reported. 

“What difference does it make if I die of the disease or follow your lead and die at home because of hunger. This virus won’t kill me, but his system will,’’ Yılmaz said in the video.

15:25 - Children banned from entering Ankara's bazaars, supermarkets

Turkish authorities banned children in the capital of Ankara from entering the province's bazaars and supermarkets in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, T24 said on Sunday.

Ankara follows the country's most populous city of Istanbul in implementing the ban on children.

15:20 - Ruling AKP lawmakers switching to flexible hours

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) lawmakers will begin working part-time or maintain flexible working hours during the coronavirus pandemic, state-run Anadolu news agency reported. 

Eighty lawmakers are set to start a flexible working schedule on Monday, it said citing a statement from party headquarters, while the rest of the party’s MPs are encouraged to follow the advice of the Health Ministry and stay at home.

15:10 - Authorities place village in central Turkey into quarantine

Turkish authorities have placed a village in the central province of Çankırı into quarantine after one resident tested positive for the coronavirus, news site T24 said on Sunday.

The residents of the village are being tested for COVID-19 as security forces has suspended all entry and exit to the village, it said.

14:56 - Istanbul municipality moving homeless off the streets

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) is moving the city’s homeless into a sports facility in a move to stop the spread of COVID-19, Diken news site said.
The homeless will be kept at the Tevfik Aydeniz Sports Facility for 14 days as health officials monitor them for symptoms of coronavirus, Diken said, after which the group will then be relocated to different facilities.

14:30 - Cappadocia film festival postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak

The Cappadocia Film Festival in Turkey's central province of Nevşehir has been suspended for an undetermined time due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sabah newspaper reported on Sunday.

14:00 - Istanbul’s governor calls on residents to stay at home for 48 hours

The Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya has called on Istanbul residents not to leave their homes for 48 hours as part of measures to combat the coronavirus.

“For your health, your family, your loved ones, for Istanbul and our country ‘Don’t go out for 48 hours’, ‘Stay at home Istanbul’,” tweeted Yerlikaya on Sunday morning.

13:15 - Turkish Medical Association demands faster coronavirus test results

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) has written an open letter to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, asking for doctors and healthcare workers to be given patients' coronavirus test results without any delays.

The TTB said that test results from centres overseen by the ministry are either not given at all or are given too late as the doctors were taking care of their patients.

"Learning the test results of the patients has become an additional and stressful struggle for doctors and healthcare workers. They are the ones who need the most transparency in order to protect themselves and other patients from COVID-19," TTB said.

13:00 - Istanbul municipality advisor dies from coronavirus

Fatih Borhan, a 45-year-old advisor for the Istanbul municipality, has died after contracting COVID-19, haber.sol.org.tr news site reported.

As of Saturday, 7,402 people have tested positive for the virus in Turkey and 108 people have died, according to official figures.

12:15 - Turkish authorities investigating more than 350 people over coronavirus-related crimes

Turkish prosecutors have launched investigations into 372 people over their social media posts on the coronavirus outbreak and for violating anti-virus measures taken by the government, Independent Turkish said.

Social media users face charges of spreading fear among the public via disinformation about the outbreak, while others face charges of failing to comply with a curfew on over 65-year-olds, stockpiling necessary goods, and being disrespectful or making fun of older citizens who did not comply with quarantine measures.

Three people have been arrested and three others have been indicted, while 21 people have been released on probation, Independent Turkish said.

12:00 - Prosecutors charge 160 people for overcharging and illicit production of goods

Turkish prosecutors have charged 160 people for crimes such as selling goods at exorbitant prices, illicit production, and endangering the health of citizens during the coronavirus, said state run Anadolu news agency.

A total of 105 police operations in 30 provinces between March 9-28 took place under the coordination of the the Anti-Smuggling and Organised Crime Department.

The police seized over 2 million masks, over 142,000 gloves, and more than 175,000 bottles of disinfectant during the raids on those suspected of overcharging or illicitly producing materials, products, and medicines that have become increasingly important as Turkey battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

11:05 - Turkey faces food shortages due to inadequate coronavirus measures, main opposition says

Turkey’s main opposition party has said Turkey risks severe food shortages within three months due to the coronavirus outbreak unless the government does not immediately put in place sufficient support for the agriculture sector, Cumhuriyet reported on Sunday.

"If the seedbeds are not distributed, the farmers cannot go to fields due to the pandemic, and the seasonal workers cannot work, we can see empty shelves in three months. The result of this is famine," Cumhuriyet quoted Orhan Sarıbal, vice president of the Republican People's Party, as saying.

10:30 - Ship captain dies of coronavirus in Istanbul

The captain of a ship docked in Istanbul's Bosporus Strait died from coronavirus on Saturday, maritime news site Deniz Haber said.

The ship FENG DE HAI, currently sailing under the flag of Hong Kong, was en route to the port of Dneprobugskiy in Ukraine. The vessel's crew had initially been placed under quarantine, but following the preliminary investigations and medical checks on the crew, the Istanbul Port Authority allowed the ship to sail on, said Deniz Haber.

10:00 - Legendary Turkish goalkeeper Rüştü Reçber tests positive for COVID-19

Turkish football legend Rüştü Reçber has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in isolation in hospital, said state-run Anadolu news agency.

Reçber’s wife, Işıl, said on Instagram that her husband had been taken to hospital on Saturday after developing symptoms. "I, my daughter and my son tested negative. Only my spouse tested positive," she said.

Reçber, 46, played for Fenerbahçe, Barcelona, Antalyaspor, and Beşiktaş, and he made 124 international appearances for the Turkish national team during his career.

21:55 - Children banned from entering Istanbul’s street markets, supermarkets

Children in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul will be banned from entering the city’s street markets and supermarkets as part of measures taken to stop the spread of coronavirus, Governor Ali Yerlikaya announced on Saturday.

The move is part of an effort to "stop residents from strolling in street markets with their children" the governor said on Twitter, adding that he believes mothers and fathers will demonstrate the effort necessary in helping the battle against the pandemic.

“Vatandaşlarımızın market ve pazar yerlerinde çocuklarıyla dolaşmalarına engel olunması maksadıyla çocukların market ve pazar yerlerine alınmaması kararlaştırılmıştır”.

Değerli anne ve babaların sevgili çocuklarımızı korumak için gereken hassasiyeti göstereceklerine inanıyorum♥️

— Ali Yerlikaya (@AliYerlikaya) March 28, 2020

21:45 - Taxis, car-hailing apps banned from intercity travel - Istanbul governor

The governor of Istanbul has said that taxis and car-hailing web applications cannot be used for intercity transit.

"Permission for intercity travel is at the hands of the Travel Permission Committee,’’ Karar newspaper quoted Ali Yerlikaya as saying, referring to a special permit now required for such travel.

Earlier on Saturday, Yerlikaya announced intercity bus travel from Istanbul would be suspended as of 5 p.m. local time.

21:00 - Turkey’s COVID-19 cases increase at alarming rate

Turkey’s test-to-diagnosis ratio for detecting coronavirus climbed to 27.46 percent by March 27, former Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmaker Sinan Oğan said.

The ratio was 11.14 percent on Wednesday.

As of Saturday, Turkey has conducted 55,464 coronavirus tests in total and confirmed 7,402 positive cases, the Health Ministry said.

Although Saturday’s figures point to a drop to 22.30 percent in the test-to-diagnosis ratio, there is still cause for concern, Oğan said.

25 Mart'da Test/Vaka oran % 11.14'tü. Bu rakam 26 Mart'ta % 16.41'e yükseldi, 27 Mart'ta ciddi bir artışla % 27.46'a çıktı. Bugün ise bir miktar düşerek % 22.30 oldu. Ancak oran hala çok yüksek! Tek çözüm: #EvdeTut #48SaatHiçÇıkma
Takip lütfen. 👉 @turksam #vaka7402 pic.twitter.com/eRxZodymty

— Sinan Oğan (@DrSinanOgan) March 28, 2020

The first case in the country was diagnosed on March 11.

Turkey is among the nations with the highest increase in COVID-19 cases, doubling each day, according to a map by the Financial Times. The map is based on data provided by John Hopkins University.

We're gonna need a bigger graph, alas. pic.twitter.com/W9z1r5eFt8

— Pippa Norris (@PippaN15) March 28, 2020

20:51 - Chairman of doctors chamber summoned to police station over COVID-19 statements

Turkish officials have summoned the chairman of a chamber of doctors in the country’s southeastern province of Mardin to a police station to give a statement on his comments over coronavirus.

The co-chairman of the Mardin Chamber of Doctors, Osman Sağlam, in two separate interviews with news outlets, had said current measures against battling the pandemic in Turkey were inadequate.

Prosecutors launched an investigation into Sağlam’s statements, for which he was accused of stirring fear and panic in the public, Artı Gerçek news site said.