Turkey orders partial curfew as COVID-19 deaths climb to 1,006

Turkish Interior Ministry has ordered a two-day curfew in 31 provinces, between midnight April 10 and midnight April 12, while Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Friday evening announced 98 new deaths and 4,747 new cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the country. More than 30,800 tests were carried out since the minister’s announcement on Thursday, and 281 people have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

In his speech, Koca called on all members of parliament to vote yes on a prevention of violence against medical personnel bill the government has proposed.

While earlier Meral Akşener, the leader of the opposition centre-right nationalist Good Party, accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of rejecting key recommendations made by the Turkish Health Ministry's Scientific Committee to tackle the coronavirus, Fahrettin Koca said all advisory decisions by the committee have been heeded.

"I don't know of any decisions (by the committee) that we have not implemented. As such, know that what has been implemented is what the Science Committee has advised," Koca said.

Akşener told journalist Cüneyt Özdemir in an interview streamed on his YouTube channel that Erdoğan had ignored the committee’s advice to impose a total lockdown on the country. "It should have been implemented," she said, calling on the committee to either share their recommendations with the public in full or to resign.

While the government has closed public spaces, restricted travel between provinces, and imposed a curfew on those under 20 and over 65 years old, Erdoğan has so far resisted repeated calls from opposition figures to impose a full lockdown. 

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca is set to chair a meeting with the scientific committee on Friday, after Turkey again recorded a steep rise in its death toll from the coronavirus on Thursday.

Koca said in his daily briefing on Thursday that 96 coronavirus patients had died in Turkey over the previous day, bringing the country’s official death toll from COVID-19 to 908.

Koca said the slowing rate of new cases compared to tests administered was a silver lining to the 4,056 new coronavirus cases added to Turkey’s tally of infections on Thursday, which has now reached 42,282.

But that rate is still among the fastest in the world. Mesut Yilmaz, an infectious diseases expert from Medipol University Hospital in Istanbul, said on Thursday that he expected coronavirus cases to peak at the end of April and begin to drop in May. “The question is how many patients will reach the peak point," he said.

(All times Turkish local time - GMT+3)

01:32 - Istanbul Mayor says that the municipality was not informed about "the sudden curfew"

The Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoğlu, in a tweet message said that the Istanbul Municipality has not been informed about "the sudden 48-hr curfew in #Istanbul & was left unsure as to what services will be provided tomorrow." In a harshly worded tweet, Imamoglu said that the such unilateral decisions, "only serve to create more panic and confusion."

In a second tweet, Imamoglu said all Istanbul municipality services will run as normal unless prohibited by the curfew.

01:00 - Interior Ministry informed us of ban half an hour ago, bakers federation head says

Halil Ibrahim Balci, president of the Turkish bakers federation, said the Interior Ministry had notified him of the curfew half an hour before it was announced to the public, Jurnal reported.

23:40 - Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu urges against curfew panic

The two-day curfew in Turkey's 31 provinces will not continue after Monday, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on live television, advising against “normal but unnecessary” panic.

“These crowds have gathered in front of a few shops that are still open at this hour, I believe they will subside within half an hour,” Soylu said, dismissing concerns over increased spread as people gathered in markets and bakeries.

Prior notice would have led to greater panic, Soylu said. “Half an hour is enough notice.”

Exempted workers will have to get to their workplaces by their own means as public transportation will not be available.

23:10 - Interior Ministry announces exemptions for curfew

Some services will remain open during the two-day curfew the Turkish Interior Ministry announced earlier, and their workers will be exempted, the ministry announced in a statement.

The private businesses to remain open include bakeries, producers of medical equipment or medicine, pharmacies, homes for the elderly and courier services. Some gas stations and veterinary clinics will remain open, with one per 50,000 population to be determined by governorates.

Essential public institutions, emergency call centres, post offices, animal shelters, farms and oil and gas power plants will also remain open.

Workers and managers of any workplaces listed, workers in Turkey’s parliament, security forces, funeral holders for first degree relatives, utility service workers, journalists and workers in the media, steel and glass workers, cold storage workhouse workers, agricultural workers due to harvest crops, blood and plasma donors with appointments at the Turkish Red Crescent will be exempted from the curfew.

Previously obtained permits for intercity travel will not be valid through the weekend, but can be used starting Monday.

Supermarkets are not part of the exemption and will remain closed.

23:00 - Turks rush to markets, bakeries ahead of curfew 

Many residents of the 31 provinces placed under a two-day curfew have rushed to markets and bakeries to buy water, bread and other necessities ahead of the curfew which will go into effect at midnight.

“Did nobody think that people would flood the markets if we declare a curfew at this hour?” tweeted journalist Can Bursalı.

Turkish social media users have been sharing images of queues in their neighbourhoods.

“I think all of Turkey will be infected within the next two hours,” academic on Sino-Turkish relations Nurettin Akçay said in a tweet.

21:55 - Turkey orders curfew in 31 major provinces

The Turkish Interior Ministry has ordered a two-day curfew in Turkey’s 30 major provinces and the Zonguldak province, to be in effect between midnight tonight and midnight, April 12.

The provinces included in the curfew are Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Aydın, Balıkesir, Bursa, Denizli, Diyarbakır, Erzurum, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Istanbul, Izmir, Kahramanmaraş, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Malatya, Manisa, Mardin, Mersin, Muğla, Ordu, Sakarya, Samsun, Şanlıurfa, Tekirdağ, Trabzon, Van, and Zonguldak, Turkey’s major coal mining province where pulmonary disease is very common.

21:20 - Fahrettin Koca announces 2,423 recovered cases, 1,006 deaths in total

Ninety eight people have lost their lives while 281 others recovered and were released from hospitals in the last 24 hours, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Friday evening, bringing Turkey’s total deaths to 1,006 deaths and recovered cases to 2,423.

Turkey’s death rate stands at 2.15 percent, placing the country 12th among countries with a population of 10 million and above.

The current occupancy rate of intensive care beds in Istanbul is 59.5 percent, while nationwide 36.3 percent of ICU beds are occupied, Koca said. Cases have concentrated in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Adana, Trabzon and Rize provinces.

Some 3.5 million masks, the use of which was made mandatory in public, have been distributed from pharmacies, Koca said.

Turkish parliament is working on a bill to prevent violence against medical personnel, an issue that Turkey’s doctors have long demanded a solution to, Koca said, calling on lawmakers to unanimously vote yes on the bill.

19:30 - Erdoğan sends letter to Boris Johnson

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sent a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wishing him a swift recovery from COVID-19.

“I know that the United Kingdom, an important strategy partner, a strong ally and a valued friend to our country, has unfortunately been one of the countries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Erdoğan said in the letter.

Turkey and Britain have had a perfect relationship “in almost all areas,” and Britain has shown solidarity with Turkey many times, he continued, and Turkey has returned the favour by sending a plane full of medical equipment.

“After we get through these global tough times, we would like to host you in our country, your ancestral lands, to crown our genuine and intense communication we have continued since you came to office, and to determine steps to further our bilateral cooperation in the post-Brexit era,” Erdoğan concluded.

17:40 - Turkish doctor to face investigation over tweet

A primary care physician in Turkey’s northwestern İzmit province announced on Friday that the Turkish Ministry of Health had launched an investigation against her over a tweet where she thanked İzmit’s Mayor Fatma Kaplan Hürriyet for sending personal protective equipment to medical centres.

“Fatma Kaplan and the İzmit Municipality who have not forgotten us in these days when the Family Health Centres are forgotten, thank you so much,” the doctor tweeted on April 1.

The investigation came after the Ministry of Health Supervisory Board issued a notice announcing that all investigations had been postponed, Dr Sibel Gören said.

Mayor Kaplan Hürriyet, a former lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, had waived rent for the health centres for three months, and sent out aid packages of personal protective equipment and food to their staff on April 1, shortly after the government deemed donation campaigns by municipalities unlawful.

16:18 - Turkish coronavirus restrictions in for long-haul, says science committee expert

A member of the science committee that is advising Turkey’s Health Ministry on the coronavirus has warned that Turks should not expect the coronavirus restrictions to end any time soon, BirGün daily reported.

“Turkey’s not yet reached (a phase when infections decrease), our infections are still increasing,” Dr. Tevfik Özlü said in response to a question on how long restrictions would continue.

“We’re seeing a rapid rise. The new restrictions may prove useful. Be ready to remain at home for the long term,” he said. “Things could go on for a little longer. Try to be happy at home.”

The science committee began its meeting with the Health Ministry on Friday afternoon.

16:00 - Turkey needs a domestic violence research commission, opposition party MP says

Züleyha Gülüm, an Istanbul member of parliament from the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), has called for the creation of a parliamentary research commission to take urgent measures against domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic, news site Bianet said.

Gülüm quoted the Turkey’s Federation of Women's Associations as saying that, with people forced to stay at home during the pandemic, incidents of physical violence against women had increased by 80 percent, psychological violence by 93 percent, and requests to be admitted to women’s shelters had risen by 78 percent.

15:25 - Turkish military university postpones selection of new cadets

Turkey’s National Defence University has postponed the selection process for cadets until June 14 due to the coronavirus, the Defence Ministry said.

The university’s rigorous selection process was due to take place between April 13 and May 1.

15:15 - Civil society virtual meetings not affected by COVID-19 restrictions – ministry

Turkey’s Culture and Tourism ministry has issued a correction clarifying that videoconferencing and other virtual meetings held by civil society groups were not barred by the country’s social distancing measures against the coronavirus after a government body sent a letter warning them not to hold the meetings during the pandemic.

The letter, shared by Amnesty Turkey campaigner Milena Buyum, said that, while annual general meetings were to be suspended until July 1, there were no restrictions on virtual meetings.

14:50 - Turkic solidarity will help beat the coronavirus, Erdoğan says

Turkish President Reecep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that Turkic Council cooperation would strengthen solidarity between member states in their fight against the coronavirus, Anadolu news agency reported.

During a video summit between members of the Turkic Council, an international organisation comprising some of the Turkic countries, Erdoğan said that he considered requests from fellow member states a priority, and that the council would be a useful platform for health ministers to exchange opinions, information, data and experience by conducting video conferences.

He also said that he hoped the council could find solutions to issues in cross-border trade and cargo transportation during the pandemic, and called for the expansion of rail transportation from Turkey through Georgia and Azerbaijan.

14:30 - Turkey among countries most at risk from coronavirus, Imperial College London says

The weekly forecast released by the Imperial College London has suggested that Turkey is one of the countries most at risk from the coronavirus due to its relatively high transmission rate, news site Bianet reported.

Imperial College estimates Turkey’s transmission rate of Covid-19 at 2.81 - which means people that contract the coronavirus Turkey will go on to infect 2.81 other people on average.

Epidemiologists at the Imperial College London also estimated that the real total number of infections is likely to be much higher than the reported figure in many countries - including Turkey. They estimated that the number of people infected with the virus in Turkey last week was around 199,000 - 7.85 times higher than the official figure.

The coronavirus transmission rate was found to be the highest in Algeria at 6.88, and lowest in in Luxembourg at 0.53.

13:50 - Turkey’s Interbank Card Centre warns against coronavirus fraud

Turkey’s Interbank Card Centre (BKM has warned the public that fraudsters have been seeking to capitalise on the coronavirus outbreak by collecting bogus donations or selling supplies through fake sites.

The BKM, which works with banks to develop rules and standards around credit and debit card use in Turkey, said that some criminals had been trying to access passwords and personal information through making contact via phone or fake social media accounts, or by selling products such as masks, disinfectant, and cologne on unregulated sites.

The BKM said that it was necessary to be careful when clicking links sent by coronavirus-related companies or while viewing content on coronavirus-related sites, campaigns and advertisements.

13:15 - Company that donated 15 million liras to COVID-19 fund sacks 13 workers

A company that donated 15 million liras to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s campaign to raise funds for low-wage earners during the coronavirus pandemic has sacked 13 subcontracted workers, Diken reported.

The Turkey Exporters’ Assembly said that it had decided to suspend a project at the Turkish Logistic Center warehouse due to the coronavirus outbreak and had terminated the contracts of 13 workers employed through the subcontractor CWT Storage. "We are victims now, we are not likely to find a job," said a worker.

12:45 - Istanbul pharmacies to start distributing free masks

Zafer Cenap Sarıalioğlu, the head of the Istanbul Chamber of Pharmacists, said that the distribution of free face masks by pharmacies to protect against the coronavirus will begin on Friday in Istanbul, followed shortly by other Turkish cities.

People aged between 20 and 65 years old will be sent a code number via text message that they can use, along with their Turkish citizen number, to collect five masks per person for a 10-day period from pharmacies, the news site Diken said.

11:35 - Consumer arbitration committee meetings postponed until end of month

Meetings of Turkey’s consumer arbitration committees, which rule on small financial disputes, have been postponed until April 30 due to the coronavirus outbreak, Anadolu news agency said.

However, consumer disputes can still be forwarded to relevant consumer arbitration committees through the Consumer Information System (TÜBİS) on the government’s online portal.

11:15 - Full lockdowns may be imposed on five provinces worst hit by coronavirus - experts

Five provinces across Turkey may face full lockdowns to slow down the spread of the coronavirus and to avoid the collapse of intensive care units, Cumhuriyet newspaper quoted experts as saying.

Hospitals across Turkey have over 24,000 intensive care beds for adults, but medical experts are concerned that the healthcare services may be inadequate due to a sudden increase in the number of patients receiving intensive care, Cumhuriyet said.

10:40 - Turkey to send medical supplies to Britain

Turkey will send medical supplies to Britain to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, Anadolu news agency reported.

Masks and overalls prepared by the Turkish Health Ministry have been loaded onto a cargo plane at Etimesgut Military Airport and will be delivered to Britain tomorrow. The packages include a quote by the Sufi mystic poet Rumi that reads: "There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness."

Turkey has also delivered medical aid to Italy, Spain, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Albania during the coronavirus outbreak.

10:05 - Turkey’s primary healthcare system has come to a halt, expert says

Public health expert Onur Hamzaoğlu told Mezopotamya news agency that the coronavirus pandemic had brought Turkey’s primary healthcare system.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, key primary health services such as vaccinations and pregnancy follow-ups are not being provided, said Hamzaoğlu, a member of the Turkish Medical Association who was dismissed from his university by an emergency decree after the failed coup attempt in 2016.

He said he was concerned that traditional and outdated treatment methods would become more prevalent in the absence of primary health provision.

09:30 - Turkey ‘exemplary country’ in COVID-19 response, says WHO representative

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s representative in Turkey, Pavel Ursu, called Turkey a model country in terms of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Turkey is an exemplary country thanks to its diagnostic capacity and tremendous efforts in treatment in its fight against COVID-19. Turkey is also running this process transparently by sharing accurate case and mortality data electronically,” Ursu said on Twitter.

Turkey is an exemplary country thanks to its diagnostic capacity and tremendous efforts in treatment in its fight against COVID-19. Turkey is also running this process transparently by sharing accurate case and mortality data electronically.@hans_kluge @WHO_Europe @WHOTurkey pic.twitter.com/9rR9xdU7Yj

— Dr Pavel Ursu (@DrPavelUrsu) April 9, 2020

23:45 – Coronavirus cases in Turkey expected to drop in May, expert says

The number of coronavirus cases in Turkey is expected to drop in May, Anadolu news agency reported.

"I expect that COVID-19 will reach its peak by the end of April, and will start recession in May. The question is with how many patients we will reach the peak point," said Anadolu, quoting Dr. Mesut Yilmaz, an infectious diseases expert from Medipol University Hospital in Istanbul. “The question is how many patients will reach the peak point."

The current Turkish health minister, Fahrettin Koca, founded Medipol in 2009.

23:09 – Ninety percent of big city residents staying home, interior minister says
Between 85 percent and 90 percent of residents in Turkey’s largest cities are remaining at home to wait out the coronavirus pandemic, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said.

The minister added that more than 122,000 citizens had been placed under quarantine and 138,000 were self-isolating at home, Diken said.

23:05 – Official coronavirus death toll and number of buried do not match up, opposition lawmaker says
There is a discrepancy between Turkey’s official COVID-19 death toll and the number of burials, Karar quoted Özgür Özel, a deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, as saying.

Three-hundred people buried in Istanbul between the first recorded coronavirus case on March 11 and March 31 had been diagnosed with non-coronavirus infectious diseases, Özel said during a parliament session, adding that this number was far higher than those who died from the coronavirus.