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Turkey to evaluate possible measures as COVID-19 outbreak flares

Men wearing protective face masks pose for a selfie with the Blue Mosque as they travel in a ferry, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/Files
2020-10-24

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SULAIMANI — Turkey will evaluate possible new measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus as the outbreak flares nationwide, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday (October 23).

Turkey reported another 2,165 people with COVID-19 symptoms on Friday, the highest one-day figure since May when Ankara imposed a series of restrictive measures. The death toll from the virus rose to 9,658 on Friday, Health Ministry data showed.

“Our health minister is visiting various provinces... We are working on what sort of measures we will take there,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul.

“As of now, what sort of measures are to be taken will be conveyed to us from the science team, and we will take our steps according to that,” he said.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said earlier on Friday that 40% of the total cases across the country were reported in its largest city Istanbul, where there were five times more than in the capital Ankara.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with local officials in five provinces in northwest Turkey, Koca said there had been a risky spike in the COVID-19 case numbers, and the second peak is underway in some cities.

Measures such as wearing masks, social distancing and flexible working hours are important in fighting the spread, Koca said, adding that lockdowns are currently not being considered.

Turkey’s top medical association and the main opposition party have criticised the government’s decision to only publish symptomatic COVID-19 patients, saying it hides the true scale of the outbreak.

Late on Thursday, Koca said residents in Istanbul should avoid crowded places unless necessary. On Friday, he said he would hold talks in Istanbul starting this weekend to evaluate the recent rise there.

Turkey imposed weekend lockdowns, restricted intercity travel and closed restaurants and cafes earlier this year to slow the spread of the virus.

Almost all restrictions were lifted in June. The government has since enforced measures such as social distancing and wearing masks, and has imposed fines on those who break rules.

A senior official said on Wednesday Ankara was considering reimposing some restrictions to stem the resurgence of cases but will avoid throttling the economic recovery.