On Monday, March 30, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that a total of 41 residential areas across the country have been put under quarantine due to the rising number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The locations under quarantine, including one district, six neighbourhoods, 28 villages and four hamlets in 18 provinces, will be quarantined as of 1515 (local time) on Monday. In these areas, authorities are urging the public to stay at home, parks and shorelines have been closed for pedestrians and inter-city bus and ferryboat services have also stopped.
The government is yet to declare a nationwide curfew and stay-at-home order, and Erdogan stated that this was to ensure the continuity of production to support export and the supply of basic needs. Local authorities have been granted special permissions from the Turkish government to introduce new restrictions if necessary.
Strict measures have been implemented to prevent the spread of the disease. On March 27, all international flights have been suspended until further notice. Authorities have also imposed a travel ban on 30 cities, including Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, as a precautionary measure. However, inter-city travel will be permitted with formal permission from local governors. In addition, passengers on public transportation will be required to sit separately from each other.
Turkey's land border with Greece, Bulgaria, Iran, and Iraq, remains closed to prevent further spread of the virus. Turkish Airlines also announced that it will be suspending all international flights, except for the airline's New York, Washington, Hong Kong, Moscow and Addis Ababa flights, from Friday, March 27, until Friday, April 17.
Meanwhile, all schools, universities, restaurants, bars, cafes, and cinemas remain closed nationwide. On Tuesday, March 24, authorities announced that supermarket opening hours will be limited to between 0900 to 2100 (local time) with a maximum of one customer for every 10 square meters of shop space. Buses will not be allowed to exceed 50 per cent capacity so that passengers can be spaced out. Officials have also suspended public events and activities. Turkish citizens aged 65 and above, as well as individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses, are restricted from leaving their homes or walking in open areas such as gardens and parks.
As of Monday, there have been 10,827 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Turkey and 168 associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.