Ankara, April 10, 2020 (AFP) - Turkey ordered citizens to stay at home for 48 hours across 31 cities starting midnight Friday to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, immediately triggering panic-buying in some cities. The interior ministry said in a statement the order would last until midnight (2100 GMT) on Sunday in dozens of cities, including the economic hub of Istanbul and the capital Ankara. Almost immediately afterwards, thousands of people in Istanbul and Ankara flocked to markets and bakeries still open for last-minute shopping, AFP correspondents said. Roads in both cities were also full of traffic, with long queues forming outside off-licences, grocery stores and banks.
Istanbul resident Simona Hayrabet, who had gone out to get some fruit and water for the weekend, said she had expected such a move by the government, "but it happened so abruptly." Another resident, Marina Gravina Zagaia, criticised the late night announcement while Salih Topcu, holding a shopping list written by his wife, described it as "nonsense". "It is really bad that they announced it so late. Had it been in the morning, we would have gone to the markets to get food and drinks," Zagaia told AFP. "Right now everyone is going through chaos," she added.
- 'No need to panic' - Turkish officials rushed to reassure citizens that the lockdown did not affect basic necessities and that it would only last 48 hours. The ministry said that bakeries, pharmacies, emergency call centres, gas stations and postal delivery companies would remain operational. Staff at newspapers, radio stations and television networks would also be exempt, it added.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu insisted "this is not a normal curfew" and would end by Sunday night, state broadcaster TRT Haber reported. "People are in a panic and I find this normal but this panic is not necessary," Soylu added. Presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun urged citizens via Twitter "to comply with this weekend's lockdown without panicking." Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition party, who had previously called for a lockdown, was also critical of the short notice and complained of noting being informed in advance.
Turkey has registered a total 47,029 cases of COVID-19 so far, most of them in Istanbul, home to over 15 million people. Health minister Fahrettin Koca told a news conference in Ankara that 4,747 new cases had been reported in the last 24 hours and 98 people had died. That brings the total death toll in Turkey to 1,006. More than 300,000 tests have been carried out in the 83-million strong country, according to the latest data. Turkey has become one of the countries with the fastest rising number of recorded cases.
Date: Sat, 4 Apr 2020 15:26:30 +0200 (METDST)
Istanbul, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - Turkey stepped up controls Saturday on crowded public spaces including markets and ferries in Istanbul a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed the use of face masks to curb the coronavirus outbreak. Turkey has so far recorded 425 coronavirus-related deaths and nearly 21,000 cases, most of them in the country's economic capital Istanbul, according to official figures. From Saturday, all those going out to shops or markets must wear a face mask, Erdogan said, calling on the population to maintain a distance of "three paces" from each other when outside.
At an Istanbul bazaar in the Besiktas neighbourhood open every Saturday, police and local municipal employees handled the use of masks and hand disinfectants, while checking the temperature of incoming customers at the entrance. Veli Yildirim, 50, who sells vegetables including tomatoes, said the measures came "too late." "We are the latest compared to the rest of the world. Even this is not enough, there should be a complete lockdown" in Istanbul, he told AFP. A 60-year-old customer in the bazaar, Asuman Karaman wearing a mask, agreed: "If these measures had been taken one or two months earlier, maybe the virus would not have been so widespread." The bazaar looked quite calm -- in stark contrast to its usual noisy and crowded state.
Vendors complained their business was hit badly. "This has a had a big impact, there is no one at the market, at this time of the day, we have nothing to do here," said Abbas Kose, who sells vine leaves. At the ferries in Istanbul, passengers were seen wearing face masks. The city's mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has been calling for total confinement but authorities have so far stopped short of that. As part of the measures taken nationwide, authorities suspended international flights, issued a confinement order for everyone aged under 20 and over 65 and shut schools. Erdogan on Friday also said vehicles would no longer be able to leave or enter 31 towns and cities, including Istanbul, for 15 days.
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2020 20:36:36 +0200 (METDST)
Istanbul, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday issued a mandatory confinement order for everyone aged under 20 starting from midnight, as part of tougher measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus in Turkey. In a television address, Erdogan also announced that vehicles would no longer be able to leave or enter 31 towns and cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, for 15 days. People aged over 65 or those with chronic medical conditions are already subject to mandatory confinement in Turkey. "Throughout the country, people aged under 20, that is to say born after January 1, 2000, will not be allowed to go out on the street" from midnight on Friday, Erdogan said.
Also, from Saturday, all those going out to shops or markets will be obliged to wear a face mask, the Turkish leader added, calling on the population to maintain a distance of "three paces" from each other when outside. Turkey has registered over 20,000 coronavirus cases, 425 of which have been fatal. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca warned on Friday that the country is just at the beginning of the outbreak, which has left over 50,000 people dead worldwide. More than half of the Turkish cases have been in the economic capital Istanbul, which has a population of around 16 million people.
The city's mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has been calling for total confinement. Erdogan's announcements on Friday are the latest moves to stem the spread of the virus in Turkey in recent weeks. Schools have been closed down, flights grounded and gatherings banned. Next week the Turkish parliament is set to consider a draft law to free 90,000 prisoners, a third of the population of the overcrowded prisons. It will concern several categories of prisoners, among them pregnant women and older people with medical conditions. But it excludes convicted murderers, sexual offenders and narcotics criminals, as well as political prisoners charged under Turkey's controversial anti-terrorism laws.
Date: Tue, 17 Mar 2020 22:13:24 +0100 (MET)
Istanbul, March 17, 2020 (AFP) - Turkey confirmed its first novel coronavirus-related death on Tuesday as the number of cases in the country has risen to 98. "Today I lost my first patient in our fight against coronavirus," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told a televised press conference, adding that the patient was an 89-year-old man.
Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2020 15:24:02 +0100 (MET)
Istanbul, Feb 6, 2020 (AFP) - The death toll from two avalanches in eastern Turkey rose to 41 on Thursday, the government's disaster management agency said, as rescue teams continued a difficult search for two missing people. Five were killed in the first avalanche in Van province bordering Iran on Tuesday, only for rescuers to be hit by a second avalanche the following day. Three more bodies were recovered Thursday, the DHA news agency said, with the AFAD disaster agency saying a total of 84 people had been injured in the twin avalanches.
Rescue efforts continued despite adverse weather conditions that caused transport problems. Authorities have banned civilian access to the scene, DHA reported. Last month, the eastern province of Elazig was hit by a powerful 6.7-magnitude earthquake that killed 41 people and injured more than 1,600 others. A 2009 avalanche in the north-eastern province of Gumushane killed 11 climbers in the Zigana mountains.