Turkey needs stronger measures to battle pandemic – health minister

Turkey needs to implement strict measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Friday.

“We cannot return to before March 10,” Koca said, referring to when Turkey’s first COVID-19 case was announced. “The coming days, whether we want it or not, will certainly be different.”

The health minister announced 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.

“Social life must be arranged to minimise mobility,” Koca said during Friday’s evening press conference. “Interpersonal contact must be minimised, and to that end, working hours, work days and vacations must be re-arranged.”

Earlier on Friday, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu listed stricter measures to reduce mobility, in a separate statement.

“No Turkish citizen should pay for a test,” Koca said. Testing is limited to ministry-authorised laboratories as unauthorized testing by individuals or entities makes filiation studies and follow-up of contacts more difficult, the minister added.

Turkey has imported some 350,000 newly-developed kits from China that drastically reduce testing times, and has in stock more than a million fast-diagnosis kits to be used in screening throughout the country, he said.

The ministry is working to increase the number of testing centres and shorten the testing time, Koca said.

Daily testing will increase to 15,000 in coming days, he said, together with the rapid screening tests that detect antibodies in 15 minutes.