Turkey's coronavirus cases overtake Iran to become new COVID-19 epicentre in Middle East

  2020-04-19 12:09      333 View Count        Comment

Turkey's confirmed coronavirus cases have risen to 82,329, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said, overtaking neighbouring Iran for the first time to register the highest total in the Middle East.

An increase of 3,783 cases in the last 24 hours also pushed Turkey's confirmed tally within a few hundred of China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged.

Mr Koca said 121 more people have died, taking the death toll to 1,890.

A total of 10,453 people have recovered from coronavirus so far, and the number of tests carried out over the past 24 hours came to 40,520, the minister said.

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

On his Twitter account, Mr Koca announced Istanbul Başakşehir City Hospital, "one of Europe's largest intensive care hospitals", would open on April 20, adding new facilities to fight against the pandemic.

"The huge healthcare complex consisting of eight separate hospitals will add strength to the power of our health system," he tweeted along with a video showcasing the new facilities.

"Despite an increase in tests, there's a decrease in number of new cases," he said in another tweet on Saturday.
The first case of coronavirus was reported in Turkey on March 11.

By March 16, the government had closed schools and universities, pavilions, bars and night clubs and a nationwide ban on prayer gatherings in mosques was also imposed.

Starting with Iran — which was at the time the third-worst affected country behind China and Italy and the epicentre of COVID-19 for the Middle East — Turkey had closed flights between 68 countries by the end of March and closed most of its land borders.
On March 21, a total curfew was introduced for anyone over the age of 65. On April 3, that curfew was extended to people younger than 20 years old and using masks in public places became mandatory.

All vehicles, aside from essential deliveries, were also banned from entering Istanbul and 30 other cities.
Shady Eed, a Syrian resident living in Istanbul, praised the government efforts but said the situation was particularly hard for residents and refugees who cannot work amid the lockdown but are not entitled to any government benefits.

"The situation is very bad," he told the ABC. "I can not make money anymore."

But for Turkish citizens, free masks were being supplied and aid was available for those who could not work, he said.

While supermarkets, takeaway food stores and other essential places remained open during the week for those not under curfew, Mr Eed said the city was in total lockdown over the weekends and parks and recreation areas were off-limits.

Streets were also being regularly sanitised and hand sanitiser dispensers had been installed in public areas and on public transport.

"I think that the Turkish government is doing very well," he said.

"The health system in Turkey is very good. They have a good plan for [emergency] conditions."

Turkey has delivered protective gear such as surgical masks and hazmat suits to nearly 30 countries around the world in recent weeks, according to the country's state media, including the UK, Israel, Spain and Italy.

Source: ABC.net


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