Turkish health minister highlights recovery figures, while Turkey's COVID-19 death toll rises to 2,600 – live blog

Turkey’s confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by 3,122 in the past 24 hours, and 109 more people have died from the coronavirus, raising the death toll to 2,600, Health Ministry announced on Friday, as the country entered the holy month of Ramadan.

The number of patients discharged since Thursday evening accounted for about 15 percent of the total number of recovered patients to date, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said during his daily Twitter briefing, which revealed 3,246 recoveries in the past day out of the total 21,737.

The official number of cases in Turkey stands at 104,912, the highest total for any country outside Europe or the United States, according to latest data.

Separately, Turkish parliamentary speaker Mustafa Şentop said Turkey aims to play an influential role in the “new world order” that arises after the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a special session marking the parliament’s centenary on Thursday, Şentop said COVID-19 had shown that the current global system was unsustainable, and lawmakers would discuss ways to ways to “evolve” the world and protect Turkey’s rights as it is reshaped, Anadolu news agency reported.

The speaker echoed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement earlier this week that Turkey will play a central role in a global period of restructuring after the COVID-19 pandemic unmatched since the aftermath of World War Two.

Erdoğan has long spoken of his aim to push Turkey to a central place in a new world order that wrests power from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. With Şentop’s speech, following similar comments from presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın on Wednesday, the government is telling the electorate and outside world that it is shifting its focus to the aftermath of the pandemic while still striving to overcome it.

The government’s gradually tightening series of measures culminated in a four-day lockdown in major provinces, starting on Thursday, to cover a major holiday and the start of Ramadan.

But the government is also struggling with severe economic impacts from the coronavirus. The central bank slashed the benchmark interest rate more than expected from 9.75 percent to 8.75 percent on Wednesday, and it has scrambled this week to keep the lira below the psychological level of seven to the dollar. Government officials was slated to hold meetings on Friday with car manufacturers, a sector hit hard by the pandemic which forced production to a halt in March.

(Times Turkish time GMT+3)

21:55 - Turkey's epidemic not at peak yet despite gov't claim, says medical board member
Dr Recep Koç, a board member of Istanbul’s Chamber of Medicine, rebuked government statements saying Turkey’s COVID-19 epidemic was under control, warning of the public complacency to follow that could lead to another surge in cases, in an interview with Independent Turkish.

“(The Turkish medical community knows) that politicians focus on optimistic explanations to give morale to the public or to open the markets early for economic reasons,” Koç said. “We think that the outbreak in Turkey has not reached its peak yet.”

18:50 - COVID-19 spring cleaning helps solve 18-year-old cold case

Recycling centre workers discovered the body of a stabbing victim at a garbage dump site in Turkey’s northwestern Kocaeli province, providing a fresh lead for a 18-year-old missing persons case, Karar reported.

The police investigation led to the capture of R. Çetin, who admitted to killing his brother Ercüment in 2002 following an argument.

Çetin had killed his brother, stuffed him in a bag of sand, and left him at Çetin's apartment 18 years ago, the newspaper reported. The bag was discovered in the now unused apartment and discarded by neighbours, who had started a spring cleaning session during the COVID-19 lockdown.

14:50 - Homosexuality brings disease, says Diyanet president

Ali Erbaş, president of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, better known as Diyanet, has targeted the LGBT community while addressing the COVID-19 coronavirus during a sermon on the first day of Ramadan.

"Homosexuality brings the illness," Erbaş said.

12:42 - Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands go on full lockdown

The Princes’ Islands off Istanbul are set to begin a full lockdown that will suspend entry to and exit from the islands for a week starting on Sunday, Anadolu news agency reported.

The islands, popular tourist destinations that are administered as a district of Istanbul, will close down the activities of hotels, camps, clubs and social facilities and bar private boats from cruising during the lockdown.

12:28 - Turkey flight contained just 32,000 gowns for British health service - report

A shipment of personal protective equipment that Britain ordered from Turkish manufacturers has arrived days late and with less than 10 percent of gowns ordered, the Guardian reported.

Britain’s National Health Service paid a deposit for 400,000 protective gowns last Friday, and government ministers said last weekend they expected the shipment of PPE to be a significant contribution to the country’s supplies.

But after days of delays to the shipment that forced Britain to send a Royal Air Force plane to collect the supplies, just 32,000 gowns were shipped, amounting to a few hours supply, the Guardian said.

11:40 - Turks under lockdown sing national anthem from home to celebrate holiday

With a lockdown in place in the country’s largest provinces, many Turks on Thursday celebrated National Sovereignty and Children's Day and the centennial anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish parliament from the windows and balconies of their homes.

Anadolu Agency uploaded footage of people singing the country’s national anthem from their homes on Thursday evening as light and firework shows took place in city centres.

23:00 - Interior Ministry takes action against 6,500 people during pre-curfew checks

The Interior Ministry has checked 100,000 workplaces and taken action against 6,500 people for violating COVID-19 measures before the weekend curfew went into effect on Thursday, Diken reported.

The ministry found 3,205 people had violated social distancing rules, while 2,424 people under the age of 20 and 805 people over 65 were caught breaking curfew, Diken said.

Most people who break regulations imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic face fines.

22:35 - 93-year-old in Black Sea province beats COVID-19

Recep Külünk, a 93-year-old from the Black Sea province of Zonguldak, danced the traditional horon folk dance of his region as he was discharged from hospital after recovering from the coronavirus, Anadolu news agency reported.

Külünk’s last test was negative after seven days of treatment in Zonguldak Atatürk State Hospital, the state-run agency said.

“They treated me in the hospital, they looked after me,” he said, expressing gratitude to the medical staff. “God bless you. Thank God I feel very good, I’m fit as a fiddle.”

22:00 - British and Russian health ministers thank Turkey for PPE support

British Health Minister Matt Hancock and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Murashko sent individual messages of thanks to Turkey for the purchased medical supplies sent to their countries and discussed the possibility of further cooperation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the Turkish Health Ministry said in a statement.

Both officials conveyed their messages to Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca in conversations via remote link, the statement said.

Turkey has provided medical supplies to 53 countries, including Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Britain, Iran, China, Cyprus, Palestine, Spain, Italy, Somalia, Serbia and Tunisia.