Turkey confirms 37 new deaths as total COVID-19 cases soar to 10,827 - live blog  

Turkey on Monday confirmed 37 new deaths due to the coronavirus and announced 1,610 new cases, raising the total number of people confirmed of being affected with COVID-19 in the country to 10,827.

A total of 725 of those affected with the deadly virus remain in intensive care while 162 of those diagnosed with coronavirus have recovered, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter.

While 11,535 coronavirus tests were conducted on Monday, a total of 76,981 have been administered to date in total, the health minister said.

The Turkish government has insisted that its data on coronavirus infections and deaths,168 as of Monday, is accurate after opposition politicians drew attention to a discrepancy between the number of deaths reported nationwide and in cities.

“Claims on social media that there is an incoherency in the data we announced are completely unfounded,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a tweet on Monday morning.

The Health Ministry reported 23 new deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 131, while the total number of cases surged by 1,815 to reach 9,217.

But on Saturday, when the ministry reported 16 deaths across Turkey’s 81 provinces, the Istanbul municipality’s online death inquiry system reported that 20 people had died after contracting COVID-19 in that city alone. Access to the municipal website was blocked after Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Veli Ağbaba drew attention to the statistic.

Ağbaba later posted an update on Twitter saying that Koca had informed him the the reason for the disparity may have been that the additional deaths recorded in Istanbul had occurred after the ministry collected data for its latest report.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the latest measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, including tight restrictions on transport that suspended international flights and clamped down on intercity travel.

However, in spite of opposition politicians’ demands, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has refrained from imposing a full lockdown, instead calling on people to voluntarily isolate themselves.

(All times local, GMT +3)

23:10 - Turks indignant over President Erdoğan soliciting donations

Turkish people on Monday have taken to social media to protest Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement of a solidarity campaign to support the lowest-income families in the country, to be funded by donations from the public.

“They wined, they dined, they had their merry way… Now they ask the people to do the dishes,” Twitter user Turkey Facts said.

“The state was supposed to give the people money, now the people give to the state,” journalist Ece Sevim Öztürk tweeted. “Maybe we can ask for the five million dollars we lent the IMF?”

 “Cough it up, o my nation, the safe is empty as can be,” journalist Nevşin Mengü tweeted.

“The nation will pick up after the state again! We would be called traitors if we ask where the money went, wouldn’t we?” said columnist Levent Özeren.

Journalist Hakan Gülseven said, “The Commander-in-Chief for Turkey the Great asks for donations for his aid account! What happened to the unemployment fund? To the contingency reserve? The earthquake taxes?”

“(Rock singer and philanthropist) Haluk Levent was great at collecting donations for the poor. I say Haluk Levent for 2023 (Presidential Elections),” said TV presenter Fatma Karaağaç.

23:20 - Turkish doctors start announcing COVID-19 cases by province

As Turkey’s Health Ministry continues to announce overall numbers on the coronavirus pandemic, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) on Monday started to announce reports from provincial branches on the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases. Five major provinces have announced reports to date.

Turkey’s megacity Istanbul, which has a population of more than 16 million, currently has more than 2,000 coronavirus patients in public hospitals, more than 200 of whom are in intensive care, according to TTB Istanbul’s report.

More than 100 healthcare workers in Istanbul have been infected.

Some 700 people in the western coastal province of Izmir have tested positive for coronavirus, or have been categorized as clinically suspected cases over symptoms in public medical centres.

Five people have lost their lives due to COVID-19 in Turkey’s largest Kurdish-majority province of Diyarbakır. The province has some 150 suspected or confirmed cases in public hospitals, and six patients in intensive care.

Some 70 suspected patients and six confirmed cases are under observation in public hospitals in the southeastern Şanlıurfa province.

The southern Adana province has some 550 suspected or diagnosed patients in public hospitals, with 63 patients in intensive care. Fifteen of the intensive care patients have been intubated. Two doctors have been released after coronavirus treatment, and there are a total of 16 healthcare workers under observation.

21:20 - Turkey launches national campaign to support low-income families during pandemic

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday launched a “national solidarity campaign” to offer financial support to those in the country’s lowest income bracket worst hit by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The campaign will be funded by donations from the public.

“I am kicking off the campaign with a donation of my salary for seven months ($ 86,000),” Erdoğan said.

The Turkish Cabinet has pledged a total of 5.2 million liras ($ 790,000) to the campaign, while philanthropists have pledged 11 million dollars, he added.

21:15 - ICJ calls on Turkey to expand scope of detention alternatives during pandemic

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has called on the Turkish parliament to extend the planned provision of alternatives to detention in response to the coronavirus pandemic to all those imprisoned for non-violent crimes.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has drafted legislation that would reduce the time served by inmates to facilitate their early release as part of measures to battle the pandemic.

“Inmates who do not pose a current threat to members of the public, regardless of the nature of the offences for which they have been charged,’’ should also be included in plans by the government for detentional alternatives, the ICJ said.

20:55 - Medical chamber says Istanbul could face hospital bed shortages

Istanbul will face a shortage of beds if the coronavirus pandemic continues its current trajectory, the Istanbul Chamber of Medical Doctors (İTO) said.

As of Monday, the number of people in Istanbul hospitals being treated or under surveillance for the virus or its symptoms is over 2,000, while the another 200 people are in Istanbul hospitals’ intensive care units, Artı Gerçek new site quoted the organisation as saying. 

“It is evident that hospitals in the city have not prepared adequately in the two and a half months since this deadly virus first came into the spotlight,’’ İTO said.

20:45 - Turkey rebukes atheism over remote education system

A programme on Turkey’s remote education system, launched earlier this month as part of the country’s measures against the COVID-19 coronavirus, labelled atheism as “contrary to human nature.”

The course broadcast on Monday on state-run TRT, titled “Faith Matters - Philosophical Approaches on Faith,” said atheism was “a belief system that argues there is no God who created the universe and living beings,” as well as “a reactionary objection” which “goes against human nature.”

19:55 - EP calls on Turkey for release of prisoners in fight against COVID-19

The European Parliament welcomes the Turkish government’s plan to substitute prison time with alternatives such as early parole during the coronavirus pandemic, however, Ankara must do so in a non-discriminatory and objective fashion, EP Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sánchez Amor and EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee chair Sergey Lagodinsky said.

The Turkish government has drafted a legislation that would reduce jail time for a large number of prisoners in light of the pandemic.

Hundreds of journalists, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, politicians, among others,are “in pre-trial detention or serving sentences without evidence that they committed any violent act or crime,’’ the pair said in a statement issued on Monday.

“Turkey must release every person detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting political views,’’ they added.

19:51 - Long traffic queues form at Istanbul border

Health screening at the city limits of Istanbul has formed kilometres-long traffic queues, BirGün newspaper reported.

Drivers are losing their patience as health officials scan all those entering and exiting Turkey’s largest city for symptoms of the deadly coronavirus, the newspaper said.

18:20 - Erdoğan aide says he 'believes' gov’t measures have slowed down spread of COVID-19

The Turkish government has taken important precautions following the first coronavirus diagnosis in the country on March 11 and has succeeded at slowing down the spread of the deadly virus, Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said.

"After the first case in Turkey, I believe we have slowed down the pace of the pandemic through very important precautionary measures,"Altun told Milliyet newspaper."Turkey will overcome this crisis through precautions that it has taken.’’ 

"We do not have any shortage of medicine and food at this time . We are in a much better position than developed countries such as the United States, Germany, Italy and  England, in terms of the number of ICU beds per 100,000 people,’’ he added. 

17:15 - OECD stats refute Erdoğan’s ICU beds claim- Artı Gerçek

OECD statistics show that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s claims of Turkey having the largest number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds is false, Artı Gerçek news site reported. 

Turkey places 31st among 42 countries in terms of ICU bed capacity, according to OECD stats for the years between 2015-2018, it said.

Erdoğan on March 27 said Turkey was among the countries best prepared to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, noting that the country had the largest number of ICU beds.

17:15 - Istanbul’s sea bus, ferry transportation suspended

The governor of Istanbul has announced that the city’s ferry services will be suspended as of 5 p.m. local time as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.Cargo ships, however, will continue to operate, Ali Yerlikaya said on Twitter.


17:10 - Turkey, Russia have not applied for emergency aid during pandemic - IMF

Turkey and Russia are not among the non-EU emerging economies in central and eastern Europe that have applied for emergency assistance through the IMF during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisation’s European Department Director Poul M. Thomsen said.

Nine such countries in the region have applied for emergency aid from the IMF’s rapid financial support facilities, Thomsen said in an article published on the IMF blog.

16:50 - Istanbul mayor calls for lockdown of city 
The mayor of Istanbul called for a lockdown of Turkey’s largest city, saying its 16 million people were most at threat from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Sixty percent of the threat is in Istanbul. If not for the whole of Turkey, a lockdown should be announced for Istanbul alone,” Ekrem İmamoğlu told Fox TV.

Istanbul is home to one-fifth of Turkey’s population.

16:45 - Union calls on Health Ministry to provide protective gear to pharmacists 

Turkey’s Pharmacists’ Union called on the Health Ministry to provide protective equipment to pharmacists during the COVID-19 pandemic, Karar newspaper reported.

"Every day, the sick continue to arrive at pharmacies and we are increasingly in need of protective gear," the union said.

The union also called for pharmacists to be included in government stimulus aimed at softening the economic fallout from the pandemic.

16:40 - Future Party leader slams gov’t over coronavirus crackdown

Former prime minister and leader of the new Future Party, Ahmet Davutoğlu, criticised the government for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and called for a partial lockdown to stop its spread.

“It is not the time to detain those who pose criticism,” Davutoğlu said in a statement on Twitter referring to the detention on Sunday of a truck driver over a video he posted on social media criticising the government for its call on people to remain at home.

The government was late in taking steps to quarantine people suspected of being infected with the virus and implementing social distancing measures, Davutoğlu said.

“Firstly, a periodical and limited lockdown should come into effect beginning with the provinces where [the virus] has spread,” the Future Party leader said.

Other measures employed by the government must include providing financial support to disadvantaged people and securing food supplies.

16:35 - Turkey puts 39 places into quarantine, Interior Ministry says

Turkey's Interior Ministry said authorities have put 39 places, including one town, six neighbourhoods, 28 villages and four hamlets into quarantine as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

15:10 - Fifteen detained in Istanbul over coronavirus party 

Istanbul police detained 15 people who defied government orders to stay at home and attended a party in the city, Artı Gerçek news site reported.

The detentions followed a backlash over videos posted on social media showing a group of people dancing with medical masks on, it said.

Ten of those detained were released after giving statements to the police, Artı Gerçek said.

14:59 - Turkey facing trouble if medical supplies run out

Red Crescent headTurkey is dependent on imports in the health sector and if its current medical supplies run out, the country will be facing trouble, the head of the Turkish Red Crescent Kerem Kınık said.

The Red Crescent will begin producing masks at the end of April, Kınık said. 

“We will quickly begin high-capacity mask production. However, during this time we are procuring masks by contacting many large producers in China,” Diken news site quoted Kınık as saying. 

Speaking of the shortage of ventilators, Kınık said Turkey remained in contact with producers.

“We have no plans to produce these devices, but we have invested in blood bags, laboratory kits, protective masks and field hospitals,” the Red Crescent president said.

14:57 – Fatih Terim discharged from hospital

Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim has been discharged from hospital after being treated for coronavirus, Anadolu news agency reported.

The Istanbul hospital that treated Terim said he would continue his recovery at home after he made good progress over a week spent in the hospital. It said he would remain in quarantine for 14 days.

Fatih Terim
(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

14:45 - Two villages quarantined in northeast Turkey

Turkish authorities have placed two villages in the northeastern province of Bayburt into quarantine, Cumhuriyet said.

The residents are being tested for the coronavirus and security forces have blocked the roads leading in and out of the villages, it said.

14:35 – Ankara municipality suspends all non-essential tenders

Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş said in a tweet on Monday his administration was suspending all non-essential tenders to instead focus on responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As part of our economic response to the coronavirus and to gain more funding for the projects we will announce today, we are suspending all tenders that are not necessary to fight the virus until life returns to normal,” Yavaş said.

14:25 – Turkey to begin coronavirus financial support from April 1

Turkey will pay 2.1 million of the poorest families 1,000 liras ($153) each to help cope with the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The payments will be made in cash from April 1, Dünya newspaper reported on Monday, citing Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk, minister responsible for family, labour and social services.

13:45 – Prison personnel to be isolated, minister says

Prison personnel in Turkey will be given accommodation in isolated areas instead of being sent home from Monday to prevent the spread of coronavirus to prisons, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said after a meeting on the virus.

Gül added that legal proceedings had begun against 459 people in 58 provinces in relation to the coronavirus. The minister did not give details on the nature of the charges but said the law would stand in the way of those “who try to turn the extraordinary period into an opportunity.”

12:00 - Turks hold 'corona parties' in villas despite social distancing warnings

A number of young Turkish people have held parties despite official warnings against socialising in order to curb the spread of the deadly virus, the Hürriyet newspaper said on Monday.

The revellers' defiance of the government's social distancing recommendations has not yet prompted a crackdown from authorities, though the gatherings are clearly a violation of regulations and police could intervene if they receive complaints, Hürriyet said.

11:40 - Quarantine extended for thousands returning to Turkey from Mecca

Turkish authorities extended the quarantine period for people returning from pilgrimage to Mecca, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

"It was decided to postpone the release of those who were placed under quarantine after returning from Umrah due to the continuing health screening," Anadolu said on Sunday.

Thousands of Turkish pilgrims have been under a two-week quarantine in university dormitories in the central provinces of Ankara and Konya since March 15 to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

11:30 - Health Minister Koca denies data inaccuracy

The Turkish government has insisted that its data on coronavirus infections and deaths is accurate after opposition politicians drew attention to a discrepancy between the number of deaths reported nationwide and in cities.

“Claims on social media that there is an incoherency in the data we announced are completely unfounded,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a tweet on Monday morning.

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.