Turkey shuts schools, colleges to combat coronavirus

Turkey has decided to temporarily close schools and universities to prevent the spread of coronavirus after the health ministry recorded its first case this week, presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın announced after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a cabinet meeting to discuss the global pandemic on Thursday.

The one-week closure of schools will begin on Monday, followed by a week of home-based distance learning starting on March 23, Kalın said. Universities will be closed for three weeks, starting on March 16.

Measures for nurseries were not discussed at the cabinet meeting, Kalın said, but families should use their discretion.

The government has followed experts’ recommendations to bar spectators from attending sporting events and will bar public officials from foreign travel in all but exceptional circumstances, he said.

The spokesman advised citizens to postpone plans to travel abroad and said those coming to Turkey from overseas should self-isolate for two weeks, where possible.

Turkey remained free of recorded cases of the virus until Wednesday, when Health Minister Fahrettin Koca called an early-morning press conference to announce the first case.

After Wednesday’s announcement, the government has ramped up its measures to control the spread of the virus, banning public gatherings at schools and indefinitely cancelling weekend leave for military personnel.