Turkey records 1,196 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths – live blog

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Thursday that the number of new coronavirus cases had leapt by 1,196, bringing the total number of diagnoses to 3,629. The virus's death toll in Turkey rose to 75 after 16 people died of it that day.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu called on the government to impose a limited curfew on the city after stressing that, despite warnings about the danger of spreading the coronavirus, more than a million people had used public transport in Turkey’s largest city during the most critical period to halt the epidemic.

Turkey imposed curbs on the export of ventilator machines after a jump in COVID-19 infections indicated that it may need to intensify measures to contain the outbreak.

The government will prioritise domestic demand for the devices, Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said in a statement on Twitter on Thursday. Producers may only export ventilators, intubation tubes and intensive care monitors with special government permission, she said.

Turkey reported 561 new cases of the coronavirus late on Wednesday, taking confirmed infections to 2,433. In an address to the nation, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan again urged people to remain at home and said Turkey might get on top of the infection in two to three weeks.

Turkey has ordered mass production of ventilators, dropped import taxes on the devices and other essential equipment, and will employ 32,000 additional health workers to help contain the virus’s spread. Testing remains limited – Turkey has carried out just over 24,000 tests in the country of about 80 million people and is awaiting the arrival of additional diagnostic kits from China.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) has warned that the government’s isolation measures are insufficient and called on it to provide workers with paid leave in order to prevent millions of people mingling as they went to work.

All times GMT+3

23:20 - Highest rate of positive test results in a day

Thursday's coronavirus test results had the highest proportion of positive diagnoses since testing began in Turkey at 16.41 percent, compared to just over 11 percent on Wednesday.

23:10 - 1,196 new coronavirus diagnoses, 16 deaths

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced the day's new statistics, recording a large rise in the number of COVID-19 cases on Thursday that brought the total number of cases to 3,629. The 16 deaths that day raised the total death toll to 75.

Some 7,286 test results came back over the last day, Koca said.

19:45 – Erdoğan urges world to combat COVID-19 as it fought 2007 financial crisis

Turkey’s president called on countries around the world to immediately cooperate together against the coronavirus pandemic, as they did to overcome the financial crisis that struck in 2007.

“We must take the lead, take responsibility and cooperate on a global level during this period,” Erdoğan said after taking part in a video conference for G20 leaders on the coronavirus. “We are seeing that even many developed countries have come into serious difficulty in the struggle against the pandemic.”

The Turkish president stressed the importance of securing humanitarian aid for regions impacted by war or otherwise under high risk from the virus.

Erdogan during the G20 videoconference.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish officials during the G20 video conference.
Turkish Presidential Press Service / AFP​​​​

18:30 – U.S. embassy urges its citizens to leave Turkey

The U.S. embassy urged American citizens in Turkey to leave the country as soon as possible in its latest Health Alert on Thursday.

The embassy advised those stranded in Turkey to arrange flights out of the country while they could and gave a list of the five remaining destinations Turkish Airlines will be flying to from Friday.

It said anyone planning to travel to Turkey for health tourism should postpone their trip, as the Turkish Health Ministry has suspended all non-urgent surgeries.

18:15 – Turkish boxing president slams Olympic Committee after boxers catch virus

The head of the Turkish Boxing Federation called the International Olympic Committee irresponsible after two Turkish boxers and their head coach tested positive for the coronavirus after a qualifying event in London.

“While the whole world was taking extreme measures to deal with the virus, I am baffled that an IOC task force and the British government allowed the tournament to start even though many of us had concerns and almost every other sport had shut down,” the Guardian quoted federation president Eyüp Gözgeç as saying. “It was irresponsible. And as a result, unfortunately three of our team have now tested positive.”

17:42 – Istanbul mayor demands limited curfew

A limited curfew is needed in Turkey’s biggest city, if not across the country as a whole, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said on Thursday.

“If not for Turkey as a whole, we expect a limited curfew in Istanbul at least,” İmamoğlu said in a filmed address on the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s right and good to make speeches to boost the public morale for the coming days. But if the necessary steps are not taken today, it is obvious that we will face disappointment in the future. So, we need to take very decisive and radical steps.”

14:58 - Turkey pledges to keep power prices unchanged in second quarter

Turkey's energy market regulator will not increase power prices in the second quarter of the year, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Electricity and natural gas supplies to households and businesses will continue even if subscribers are unable to pay, said Mustafa Yılmaz, the regulator's chief, according to Anadolu.

14:52 - Turkish state-run homebuilders suspend loan repayment requirements

Turkey's two main state-run homebuilders, TOKI and Emlak Konut, are allowing borrowers to delay installments on loans due in April and May, Environment and Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum said.

13:15 – Turkish opposition proposals to combat virus rejected in parliament

Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalist allies have rejected a swathe of proposals by opposition parties to combat the virus outbreak.

The measures should include providing a basic income of 2,000 liras per month to families without a wage source and to provide interest-free loans to farmers, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said, according to Dunya newspaper. The government should also restructure the loans of ordinary citizens, widening an offer already given to businesses, with a six-month payment waiver, the CHP said. 

The AKP should issue interest-free bonds to help households and abolish sales taxes until the end of June to help revive domestic demand, according to the Good Party (IP), Dunya said. A 50 percent discount on sales taxes should then be implemented till the end of the year, it said. 

13:03 - Turkey to employ 10,000 motorcycle couriers to deliver supplies

Turkish firms are looking to employ about 10,000 extra motorcycle couriers throughout the country to deliver goods and supplies to customers remaining at home, Sabah newspaper reported.

Home orders are up 50 percent as Turkey's oldest citizens self-isolate and people buy food, cleaning materials and leisure goods, Sabah said. The increase in couriers will come on top of the 250,000 people who are already employed, it said, citing an industry group.

12:05 - Istanbul water levels running low as residents wash hands - expert

Water levels in Istanbul have dropped to their second lowest point in the past 10 years as people use more water to wash their hands due to the coronavirus, the news site Diken said on Wednesday.

The water level is currently 31 percent lower compared to the same period last year, a reduction from 94 percent of capacity to 63.92 percent of capacity, said Hüseyin Toros, professor of engineering at Istanbul Technical University.

12:00 - Turkish doctors call on government to give workers paid leave

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) has said that the government’s isolation measures were insufficient and called on it to provide workers with paid leave in order to prevent millions going to work during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is not possible to say that the government has established a proper social isolation system. There is a complete mess. A paid leave system must be activated immediately,” TTB President Sinan Adıyaman told DW Turkish on Wednesday.

11:37 - Top Turkish exporters suspend production on COVID-19

Three top exporting firms became the latest major businesses to suspend manufacturing in Turkey, citing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, Diken news website reported.

Oyak Renault, a partnership between French carmaker Renault and a Turkish military retirement fund, said it was halting production in steps and resumption would depend on domestic and global developments, Diken said on Thursday. The companies also included television and home appliance maker Vestel and truck producer Anadolu Isuzu.

11:02 - British couple self-isolating in Turkish car park after borders closed

A British couple who had set off on a round-the-world trip in a camper van are self-isolating in a car park in Istanbul after Turkey closed the borders due to the coronavirus outbreak, the BBC said.

Chris and Marianne Fisher have been trapped in Turkey and have been staying in an overnight car park in Istanbul's historical Yenikapı district since March 22, the BBC said.

10:45 - Turkey's 'most knowledgeable' coronavirus expert sidelined

One of Turkey’s most qualified scientific experts on the coronavirus is being sidelined in Turkey, said The National newspaper on Wednesday.

Mustafa Ulaşlı, who spent more than a decade researching coronaviruses, was among thousands of academics purged from their jobs in the wake of a failed coup in 2016. Ulaşlı was accused of having ties to the banned Gülen movement, which the government blames for the coup. He had graduated from a Gülenist-linked university in 2002.

9:57 - Turkey introduces export controls on ventilators

Turkey has introduced export controls on ventilators as part of measures to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Turkey’s Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan tweeted on Thursday that controls would ensure that respiratory devices would be prioritised to meet the domestic health demand.

She said that the export of Turkish supplies of ventilators, intubation tubes, and intensive care monitors will now require permission from the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency.