Turkish Airlines announced on Tuesday, April 14, that it has extended the cancellation of all international passenger flights until Wednesday, May 20, due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) concerns. The suspension was set to expire on Friday, May 1. The airline added that domestic flight operations will remain halted until Monday, April 20.
On Monday, April 13, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that a 48-hour lockdown will again be implemented across Turkey's major cities, effective at 00:01 (local time) on Saturday, April 18, to limit further spread of COVID-19. Similar measures were imposed between April 11-12 on 31 cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.
On Friday, April 3, President Erdoğan announced additional restrictions on movement in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. As of Saturday, April 4, 31 cities have been placed under quarantine, including Istanbul. As such, all entry and exit into the municipalities is barred, except for the transport of essential supplies. The measure will remain in place for an initial period of 15 days, and may be extended. In some areas, parks and shorelines are also closed to pedestrians and inter-city bus and ferry service. Additionally, a partial curfew came into effect on Saturday, April 4, for citizens under the age of 20, prohibiting them from leaving their homes. Erdoğan also announced that wearing a mask in public places and crowded factories will be mandatory for all individuals.
All international flights remain suspended until further notice as of Monday, April 13. Authorities have also imposed a travel ban for 30 cities, including Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, as a precautionary measure. Additionally, passengers on public transportation will be required to sit separately from each other. Turkey's land borders with Greece, Bulgaria, Iran, and Iraq remain closed to prevent further spread of the virus.
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 09:00 to 21:00 with a maximum of one customer for every 10 square meters of shop space. Buses will not be allowed to exceed 50 percent capacity so that passengers can maintain appropriate social distancing. 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 public areas.
To date, there have been than 61,049 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, with 1296 associated deaths. 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.