Turkey’s death toll hits 2,017 as it records highest case numbers in Asia - live blog

Turkey on Sunday announced 127 new deaths due to COVID-19, raising the country’s total tally to 2,017.

The country’s confirmed coronavirus cases have risen to 86,306 in the last 24 hours, overtaking China with the highest total in Asia for the first time to date.

Since Saturday evening, Turkey has diagnosed 3,977 new cases from 35,344 coronavirus tests, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a daily update on Twitter.

The minister earlier on Sunday urged Turkish citizens to follow curfews and restrictions, emphasising the success state-issued pandemic measures have had with decreasing in the number of cases in relation to increased testing.

Turkey now has the world’s seventh highest number of confirmed infections.


Meanwhile, Turkey’s Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into COVID-19 aid campaigns by opposition mayors in Turkey's two largest provinces, Istanbul and Ankara.

The Interior Ministry has also banned the opposition-controlled municipality in the southern province of Mersin from distributing free bread to families during the pandemic and the governorate of Muğla, a popular vacation spot in southwestern Turkey, has ordered the province’s metropolitan municipality to stop distributing packages of food and sanitary products.

Major Turkish cities such as Istanbul and Ankara have gone into a second consecutive weekend curfew that covers 30 major provinces and the northern Zonguldak province, as was the case last weekend.

The Interior Ministry also said it was extending restrictions on travel between 31 cities for a further 15 days starting at midnight on Saturday.

(All times local Turkish time, GMT+3)


22:50 - European Alevi confederation starts fund to help Turkey’s Alevis during pandemic

The European Alevi Unions Confederation (AABK) has started a fund to help Turkey’s Alevis affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Birgün newspaper reported. 

The fund will provide bursaries for Alevis students and help families hard hit by the economic fallout of the outbreak, the newspaper said citing a statement released by the AABK.

Turkey’s Alevi minority are estimated to number somewhere between 10 and 20 million people. Alevism, a belief that combines Shi’ite, Sufi, and Sunni traditions, is not officially recognised as a faith, but are counted as Muslim, along with the Turkey’s Sunni majority.

22:20 - Over 20,000 facing legal procedures over weekend lockdown violations

Turkish officials have started legal and administrative procedures against 20,398 people for violating measures imposed as part of a weekend lockdown in 31 provinces, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The figure, announced by the country’s Interior Ministry, arrives hours before the end of the second consecutive weekend curfew due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

22:20 - Istanbul mayor calls for 11-day full lockdown across Turkey

The opposition mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, has called for a full lockdown across the county from April 22 to May 1.

İmamoğlu said the current weekend curfews imposed on 31 provinces were inadequate, noting lockdown would help to keep the soaring contagion in the country down, new site T24 reported.

Turkey will end its second 31-province wide weekend curfew on Saturday at midnight. The country has the seventh highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world.

21:40 - Turkish Armed Forces applies to science council for COVID-19 medication production

The Turkish Armed Forces have applied to country’s Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK) for the production of medication for the COVID-19 pandemic, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

“Our research and development has started and we have submitted the drug development project to TÜBİTAK,” the newspaper quoted Defence Ministry spokeswoman Şebnem Aktop as saying. Aktop also said the TSK had completed the prototype of a respirator.

21:20 - Erdoğan, Trump discuss pandemic,regional developments in phone call

U.S. President Donald J.Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a phone call on Sunday agreed to work together to fight against the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Both leaders agreed on cooperation in fighting the threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to public health and the countries’ economies, it said.

The pair also discussed bilateral issues as well as regional developments, the presidency announced in a statement it released on Twitter.

20:00 - Turkey brings back passengers on stranded Greek cruise ship

A group of passengers from a Greek cruise ship arrived in Turkey after being quarantined on April 3 following the detection of COVID-19 onboard.

A total of 160 passengers, including 152 Turkish nationals, who were on board the El Venizelos docked in southern Greece, have been placed in dormitories in Tekirdağ and Canakkale provinces, where they will be monitored for two weeks, Diken news site said.

17:50 - Turkey ramps up efforts for production of beans, lentils

Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has rolled up its sleeves to increase production of staple food items, such as beans and lentils, whose price in international markets has been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of the ministry’s plans include a government grant of 75 percent of lentil and bean seeds to pilot regions spread throughout Anatolia, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

17:20 - Opposition municipalities’ aid campaigns attempt at ‘parallel state’ - AKP deputy chairman 

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy chairman Mahir Ünal has accused opposition municipalities of attempting to form a parallel state through their pandemic aid drives.

"We have seen in our battle against the pandemic that some Republican People’s Party (CHP) municipalities are opting to move on their own instead of being part of [state-led] coordination [campaign],’’ Ünal said on Twitter.  "This is equivalent to [the formation of] a parallel structure to the state."

Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck Turkey in March, tensions have intensified between the ruling AKP and opposition-run local governments.

17:05 - Turkey begins delivering cash aid to over 2 million homes

The Turkish Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services has announced that the delivery has begun of 1000 lira ($144) in cash aid to over 2 million homes as part of economic measures to aid families hard hit by the pandemic.

A total of 2.3 million homes in the country will receive the aid as part of the second phase of aid to families in need, news site T24 quoted minister  Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk as saying. 

“The aid is being delivered based on applications per home. Even if multiple individuals apply from one residence, only one payment will be made,” Selçuk said.

12:35 - Zonguldak has Turkey's highest per capita COVID-19 death rate

Zonguldak, Turkey’s major coal mining province where the pulmonary disease is very common, has the country's highest reported per capita coronavirus-linked death rate, T24 said.

Five people died in the province, which has a population of 596,000, after contracting the coronavirus, T24 said.

Zonguldak is followed by Istanbul, which has a population of 15.5 million population and 117 confirmed coronavirus-linked deaths.

11:42 - Two Turkish football teams resume training after COVID-19 break

Turkish football teams Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş will resume training next week for the first time since the league was postponed in mid-March, Sözcü newspaper said.

A total of six players and administrative staff from Fenerbahçe have tested positive for the deadly virus.

11:00 - Turkey's tourism season to start in May, minister says

Turkish Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said the tourism season will be opened in May and the ministry will give certificates to COVID-19-free businesses, Sözcü reported.

"I think normalisation is possible towards the end of May. Mobility will also start in domestic tourism," Ersoy said.

10:30 - Turkey to ease coronavirus measures after Ramadan

Turkey's Health Minister said COVID-19 measures will be gradually lifted after the holy month of Ramadan, Hürriyet newspaper reported.

Ramadan in Turkey this year starts on April 24 and ends on May 23.

"According to the May plans expressed by minister Koca, it is stated that gradually easing the measures can be brought to the agenda after Ramadan. It is stated that different approaches can be followed for each province at the beginning of June depending on the course of the infection," Hürriyet said.

22:40 - Obtaining protective gear, training among problems facing healthcare workers – survey

A survey conducted by the Ankara Chamber of Medicine revealed Turkish healthcare workers are experiencing difficulty in acquiring protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the 499 private healthcare workers surveyed, 39 percent said there was a problem of inadequate protective gear available for employees, Birgün newspaper said.

Another 32 percent said fellow workers had tested positive for the virus in their workplace, while 51 percent said they never received training on how the virus is spread.

Forty-eight percent said they had issues with their salaries and compensatory payments during the outbreak.

22:15 - Interior Ministry extends access ban in 31 provinces

Turkey’s Interior Ministry has extended entry and exit restrictions in 31 Turkish provinces, one of many limitations on mobility to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cumhuriyet newspaper said.

The current restrictions, which end at midnight on Saturday, in 30 major provinces and the northern province of Zonguldak, will be extended for another 15 days, it said, citing a ministry circular confining residents to their areas until further notice.

Access will only be allowed under exceptional circumstances and through a special permit, Cumhuriyet said.