Turkey’s Coronavirus death toll raises to 30, 289 new cases - health minister

(Corrects number of tests, 20,335 have been carried out so far, not on Sunday)

Turkey’s death toll from the coronavirus rose to 30 after 9 more elderly people succumbed to the pandemic, the Turkish Health Ministry announced late on Sunday.

“Today has nine new deaths, 289 new diagnoses. Let’s stay in our house. Let’s not take risks,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a statement on Twitter.

A total of 20,335 tests for COVID-19 have been carried out to date, the minister said.

The latest announcement brings the number of confirmed cases in Turkey to 1,236.

Koca urged people to stay at home, especially people aged 65 years and older, as well as those with chronic medical conditions.

A partial curfew was brought in on Sunday to restrict the movement of elderly and vulnerable citizens in a bid to reduce exposure to the pandemic.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at midnight on Friday posted a voice message on Twitter urging people to stay at home and be mindful of the elderly and chronically ill.

Koca said on Friday that he expected the number of coronavirus diagnoses to reach a peak in two to three weeks.

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

Başak Demirtaş, the wife of jailed former pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, called on Saturday for the release of prisoners in Turkey during the coronavirus pandemic. The conditions in prisons are inadequate to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Demirtaş said.

Schools, universities and mosques have been temporarily closed and professional sports have been halted as part of measures to contain the virus. Turkey’s Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure announced on Saturday that flights to 46 more countries will be suspended, bringing the total number to 68.

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 GMT+3) 

01:20 - Head of Diyanet urges people to pray for end of COVID-19 epidemic

The head of the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) implored worshippers to abide by precautionary coronavirus measures and stay at home until the epidemic has ended.

“Starting from tomorrow, voices of prayer will rise from all our mosques after the call of the nightly prayers to end the COVID-19 epidemic and that our patients get better. I invite our citizens to stay at home, to abide by the measures with sensitivity and to be of one heart and pray,” Ali Erbaş tweeted.

00:40 - Turkish health minister stops giving daily test numbers

A Turkish popular science organisation revealed that daily testing numbers for coronavirus have dropped, after the health minister stopped providing the statistic on Sunday.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced a total of 20,345 tests were carried out in Turkey, in a tweet on Sunday.

However, a graphic posted on Twitter by Tree of Evolution revealed a drop in the number of tests since March 17, even after the Health Ministry announced on Saturday a new domestically produced testing kit.

According to the chart, 3,656 tests were performed on Friday, but the daily count decreased to 2,953 the day after. Sunday’s count dropped to 1,755, while Turkey’s death toll continues to rise.

22:14 - Banks in Turkey reduce hours due to pandemic

Banks throughout the country are reducing their hours to 12-5 p.m., according to a decision by the Turkish Banks Union, news site T24 reported. 

The new hours come as a recommendation from the union in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, but banks are free to use their own discretion in exercising flexible hours, it said.

21:30 - Istanbul sees almost 70 pct drop in public transportation use among elderly 

Istanbul has seen a 69 percent decrease in public transportation use among those aged 65 and older over the last two weeks, the city’s mayor said.

Two Saturday’s ago, 424, 795 people in said age bracket used public transportation, while this dropped to 83,914 this past Saturday, Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said on Twitter.

21:30 - Istanbul sees almost 70 pct drop in public transportation use among elderly Istanbul has seen a 69 percent decrease in public transportation use among those aged 65 and older over the last two weeks, Diken news site reported citing the city’s mayor. Two Saturday’s ago, 424, 795 people in said age bracket used public transportation, while this dropped to 83,914 this past Saturday, Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said on Twitter.

Turkey's Interior Ministry announced Saturday a curfew for people aged 65 and up and people with chronic diseases.

 21:10 - Turkish rescue team setting up emergency tents in hospitals

The Turkish National Medical Rescue Team has begun setting up emergency tents in hospital yards in preparation for the coronvirus outbreak, Artı Gerçek news site reported.

The tents have so far been set up in the northwestern town of Yalova, the northern town of Kastmaonu and Istanbul, but will expand to all provinces in the country, it said.

20:40 - Istanbul residents continue flocking to public spaces

The residents of Turkey’s most populous city of Istanbul defiantly continue flocking to public spaces despite calls by officials, including mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, for them to remain indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.

One Twitter user shared video footage of a wedding celebration along the Bosporus.

 20:30 - Streets of Turkey’s eastern province of Van virtually empty

The streets are virtually empty in Turkey’s eastern province of Van, which experts point to as on of the country’s high-risk areas for coronavirus, Duvar news site reported.

Central Van resembles a ghost town following the curfew policy announced on Saturday, it said. 

20:00 - Turkish couple in central Turkey becomes first to receive fine for breaking curfew

Turkish police in the central province of Konya fined a couple for 6,300 lira ($961) for violating the elderly curfew that went into effect on Sunday.

Locals notified officials after the couple, who arrived from Germany, defied the curfew in the town of Beyşehir, Birgün newspaper said. 

Turkey has banned people above 65 and those with chronic health problems from leaving their homes in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

19:45 - Saudi Arabia says 72 Turkish nationals among new coronavirus cases

Saudi Arabia has recorded its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases, registering 119 people with the deadly virus, 72 of whom are Turkish nationals.

With the latest figures, the total number of cases in the Kingdom number 511, Saudi 24 news site reported.

19:35 - Free courier service for people over 65 in Ankara, municipality says

Ankara’s municipality will provide free courier service to citizens aged 65 and over, who are restricted from leaving their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic, the capital’s mayor announced on Sunday.

Mayor Mansur Yavaş shared a list of businesses that will provide courier services for grocery shopping as of Monday, to aid those unable to go outside because of a partial curfew implemented on midnight Sunday.

19:07 - Turkey shuts down brothels to stop spread of COVID-19

Brothels throughout Turkey have been temporarily shut down in a bid to stop the coronavirus pandemic, the Independent Turkish reported.

The decision follows the closure of bars, cafes, restaurants, barbershops and beauty salons.

19:00 - Pro-Kurdish MP calls for top religious body’s funds to transferred to Health Ministry

A Turkish lawmaker with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has called for part of the funds of Turkey’s top religious body, the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), to be transferred to the Health Ministry during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Doctors are pointing out that basic items such as masks and gloves in adequate. If we keep in mind the rate the virus is spreading, it appears that emergency services will not be able to deal with the outbreak in the near future,’’ news site T24 quoted  Zeynel Özen as saying. 

"At least a part of Diyanet’s massive budget should be allocated to the Health Ministry,’’ Özen added.

The top religious body’s budget exceeds that of other government ministries by a wide margin.

17:30- Four Istanbul courts shut down after staff tests positive for COVID-19

The staff of four different criminal courts in Istanbul’s Kartal district have been given an administrative leave of absence after a clerk was diagnosed with coronavirus, Diken news site reported.

The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth criminal courts of Istanbul courthouse have been shut down following the COVID-19 case, it said.

The clerk is believed to have contracted the virus from his spouse, who is a nurse, it said.

17:15 - Healthcare workers receive free access to rail transport in Istanbul, İzmir, Ankara

 Healthcare workers in three of Turkey’s largest cities, Istanbul, İzmir and Ankara, will receive free access to cities’ rail transportation systems free of charge effective Sunday, news site T24 reported.

"We cannot pay back healthcare workers who are risking all kinds of threats in fulfilling their duties in the  frontlines of this war,’’ it quoted Transportation Minister Cahit Turan as saying, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Accordingly, Istanbul’s Marmaray, Ankara’s Başkentray and İzmir's İzban will be free to the workers. 

16:30 - CNN Türk bans over dozen journalists from entering building over virus outbreak

CNN Türk, owned by government-affiliated conglomerate Demirören Holding, has banned 16 journalists and cameramen from entering the building of the news outlet due to the coronavirus outbreak.

15:20 - Turkish Airlines to reduce int'l flights to five destinations

As of March 27, Turkish Airlines will offer flights to only five international destinations due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic, Diken news site reported.

The national flag carrier will fly to Moscow,  Addis Ababa, New York, Washington and Hong Kong, it said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this week unveiled an economic stimulus package to soften the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included support for the airlines hard hit by the outbreak.

15:09 - Interior Ministry announces exceptions to curfew

The Turkish Interior Ministry has shared the exceptions to Saturday’s partial curfew announcement for those aged 65 and older and the chronically ill.

Exceptions have been made for pharmacists and vital public officials in services where staff shortages may exist during the COVID-19 pandemic and pharmacists, T24 news site said.

Doctors, healthcare professionals, mayors, provincial directors, social service officers and other required public officials will continue to work so long as they do not face any serious health conditions such as cancer, the Interior Ministry said.

The ministry has also listed hotlines for those affected by the curfew that must leave their homes or travel.

14:35 - Bulgaria says they have received help from Turkey and China, but not from EU

Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Donchev Karakachanov said Sofia had received assistance from Turkey and China during the coronavirus pandemic, but that the European Union had failed to help the country.

"As you can see, we have not received a single mask from Europe so far. We get help from China, from Turkey – countries with slightly different worldviews regarding the role of the state and its institutions in the world," Karakachanov said.

14:25 - Ankara to evacuate more than 3,000 Turkish students

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said more than 3,000 Turkish students in seven countries that had suspended international flights would be evacuated back to Turkey.

A total of 3,358 Turkish students in Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates have applied to Ankara’s diplomatic missions asking to be evacuated, he said.

14:10 - Ankara bans informal rubbish collection to prevent coronavirus spread

Ankara municipality has banned informal rubbish collection in the province due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The municipality said the collectors, who separate metal and paper to sell to recycling companies, will be provided with housing and food during this period.

14:00 - Albania suspends all commercial flights out of Tirana, but exempts Turkey

Albania will suspend all commercial flights to and from the country from midnight on Sunday, but will allow its flagship carrier Air Albania to continue to fly to Turkey and to operate humanitarian flights, Reuters reported.

13:50 - Deputy Education Minister says vocational high schools can produce 2 million medical masks a month

Turkey's Deputy Education Minister Mahmut Özer said vocational high schools could produce 2 million medical masks a month. He said the government has provided 37 schools in 21 provinces with extra funding to produce the masks.

13:00 - Doctor lists the Turkish cities most at risk from coronavirus

Turkey's Scientific Committee member Mehmet Doğanay said the Turkish cities most at risk from a coronavirus outbreak are Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and Antalya in the west of the country, and the eastern city of Van, which is in a province that borders Iran.

Meanwhile, Mehmet Ceyhan, another member of the committee, said the upcoming week will be critical regarding the country's efforts to stem the outbreak.

"It is not possible for us to control the spread if everyone does not remain at their homes this week and if they continue to have contact with people," Ceyhan said.

11:15 - Turkey to impose $535 fine on those who break the curfew order

Eastern province of Erzincan governor Ali Arslantaş has said that people aged over 65 and over, and those with chronic illnesses, will be fined 3,500 liras ($535) if they break the curfew order placed on them to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

10:50 - Turkey announces curfew for over 65-year-olds, chronically ill

Turkey's Interior Ministry has imposed a partial curfew as part of its efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Citizens aged 65 and older, as well as those with chronic illnesses, must remain at home and the municipality will provide services to cover their basic needs, the ministry said.

10:30 - Editor-in-chief of local newspaper detained for reporting coronavirus deaths

Ismail Çiğil, the editor-in-chief for Ses Kocaeli, was detained in a police raid on his house after the daily reported the deaths of two coronavirus patients in the northwestern province of Kocaeli's Derince district.