Turkey declares private hospitals ‘pandemic hospitals’, announces five new deaths – live blog

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Turkey's Ministry of Health late on Friday announced that all private hospitals that qualify will be considered "pandemic hospitals," and be required to dedicate several wards and ICUs to patients with the COVID-19 coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases rose to 670 as of late Friday, and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced five more deaths, raising Turkey's total to nine.

Turkey has ramped up its measures to curb the spread of the virus this week, administering 1,981 tests on Thursday alone and placing 9,800 people under quarantine.

While the number of people tested has risen sharply since COVID-19 reached Turkey last week, Koca said that tests could not be administered to everybody who asked for them. Nevertheless, the minister said, he expected the number of coronavirus diagnoses to reach a peak in two or three weeks.

The Youth and Sports Ministry on Thursday called a halt to all professional sports. Schools, universities and mosques have been temporarily closed, and incoming flights from 20 countries have been suspended.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced a 100-billion-lira ($15.4 billion) package of measures to support Turkey’s economy after the pandemic sent the lira spiralling to its lowest level since September 2018.

(All times Turkish time - GMT +3)

00: 20 - Four prisoners hospitalised with fevers

A detainee named Eser Mor Sümbül in Izmir’s Şakran Prison told his family that four inmates had been hospitalised on Friday with high fevers, pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya Agency reported.

The prison canteen has increased prices for cleaning supplies and the administration has not provided inmates with clean linens, leading to increased concerns over the coronavirus spreading among prisoners, Sümbül said.

The Human Rights Association’s (IHD) Izmir branch asked the prison administration about the matter, but was told, “No such thing happened,” Mezopotamya said.

00:10 - Turkish border units take disinfection measures against COVID-19

Turkish border troops carried out disinfection operations on the Syrian border to battle the spread of a coronavirus pandemic, Son Dakika Türk reported late on Friday.

Specialised units sterilised military vehicles, buildings and unspecified sectors on the borderline, the online news portal said, while Arabic brochures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were distributed in Syria to Turkish areas of operation and temporary shelter centres.

23:30 - Turkey announces five more coronavirus deaths, raises confirmed cases to 670

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca late on Friday announced five more deaths due to the COVID-19 coronavirus and 311 new cases identified within last 24 hours, bringing the total cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in Turkey to 670.

The minister said in a tweet:

“In the last 24 hours 3,656 suspected cases were tested. 311 of them tested positive. Our number of patients rose to 670. We have lost five patients who were elderly and had low resistance. To date, we have a total of nine lives lost. All of them were from among our elderly. Let us protect our elderly. Let us not slack even for a moment in our fight.”

23:10 - Istanbul issues multilingual coronavirus awareness videos

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has produced animated videos in several languages to raise public awareness on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The videos in Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Farsi and English will be broadcast from screens in public squares, metros, trams and buses, as well as the municipality’s own website and social media.

22:20 - Turkey’s Ministry of Health declares private hospitals ‘pandemic hospitals’

The Turkish Ministry of Health has on Friday issued a memorandum, declaring all private hospitals as “pandemic hospitals” to support the public health system’s efforts against the coronavirus, Hürriyet reported.

All hospitals that have at least two doctors who specialise in infectious disease, clinical microbiology, pulmonary medicine or internal medicine, as well as the necessary equipment in their intensive care units (ICU) will be considered pandemic hospitals, according to the memorandum.

The newly-declared pandemic hospitals will need to dedicate a clinic and an ICU for COVID-19 patients, and prepare a plan to outline in what order other wards and ICUs will be added to the coronavirus clinic.

Oncology, haematology and radiation oncology clinics, as well as organ and bone marrow transplant centres will run uninterrupted as much as possible, the memorandum said.

20:15 - Turkish doctor estimates 145,000 actual coronavirus cases in Turkey

Turkey could have as many as 145,000 undiagnosed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Dr Muhammet Emin Akkoyunlu, a pulmonologist from Medipol University, said on a televised debate on Friday.

Dr Akkoyunlu cited Chinese and Korean studies that found there are an average of 400 undiagnosed cases for each patient identified as coronavirus positive, which would mean some 143,500 actual cases for Turkey’s 359 identified patients.

Among the founders of Medipol University is Fahrettin Koca, Turkey’s minister of health and founding chairman of the Education Health and Research Foundation (TESA) which has close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family.

19:00 - Istanbul suspends 24-hour public transport on weekends

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu announced on Friday that the municipality has suspended around-the-clock public transport on weekends as part of its efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Buses, metro lines and trams will also run on reduced frequency outside of rush hour, and the municipality will disinfect all private-operated public transport, including taxis and minibuses, in 100 stations set up throughout the city, on top of daily disinfections of municipal buses, metro cars, trams and ferries.

The municipality has also fitted 35 ambulances with equipment to allow transport of suspected coronavirus cases, and set up specialised food markets with increased hygiene measures.

18:40 - Russian embassy warns against travel to Turkey

The Russian ambassador to Turkey, Alexei Yerkhov, said on Friday that travel to Turkey was a significant risk for tourists due to the coronavirus.

Some Turkish airlines have already suspended flights to and from Russia, Yerkhov said, and potential risks for travellers to Turkey included going into quarantine, being deported, or a prolonged stay in Turkey without being able to return.

17:15 – Justice Minister: No coronavirus cases detected in Turkish prisons

There have been no diagnosed cases of coronavirus in Turkish prisons, which house some 300,000 inmates, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said.

Gül said he rejected claims that prison authorities had not taken sufficient measures to protect inmates, and said disinfectant products were being distributed for free at prisons.

15:50 – Mosques empty as Turks pray in homes, workplaces

Mosques around Turkey stood eerily empty under the watchful eyes of security officers on Friday, the first day places of worship have been closed for the weekly congregational prayers due to the coronavirus risk, images from Anadolu news agency showed.

15:35 – Istanbul Airport lifts parking fees

The consortium operating Istanbul Airport, IGA, has lifted parking charges at the airport in a bid to reduce contact between people during the coronavirus pandemic, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.

“In these times when any kind of contact should be avoided, Istanbul Airport’s car park will be free of charge for all guests and staff from 7 p.m. (on Thursday),” IGA said.

15:31 – Turkey to ban food shoppers from handling fresh fruit and veg – trade minister

Turkey is planning to enforce measures to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection at markets by stopping customers from handling fruit and vegetables, Dünya newspaper quoted Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan as saying.

The new measures aim to ensure that unpackaged fruit and vegetables is sold under hygienic conditions at properly disinfected markets where customers will be required to wear masks and gloves, the minister said.

The minister said customers would be barred from handling fruit and vegetables to choose them before buying, and that they would instead be passed to customers directly by vendors.

12:05 – Turkish real estate ads look to exploit coronavirus fears

The worry around the COVID-19 pandemic reaching Turkey has led some unscrupulous individuals to publish misleading advertisements promising “coronavirus-free” housing, Hürriyet Daily News reported.

The news site said there had been a spike in demand for detached houses and for properties outside city limits since the virus reached Europe.

12:00 – Honda suspends production in Turkey

Honda followed Ford Otosan and Toyota on Friday by suspending production at its plant in Turkey due to the impact of the coronavirus, Diken news reported.

The Japanese car manufacturer said its facility would halt production because of supply chain issues.