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18 Mar 2020 | 11:07 AM UTC

Turkey: Government shuts land borders with Greece and Bulgaria due to COVID-19 March 18 /update 8

Turkey shuts land borders with Greece and Bulgaria due to COVID-19 March 18; first COVID-19-related fatality confirmed



On Wednesday, March 18, Turkey suspended the entry and exit of passengers at its land borders with Greece and Bulgaria in an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Gates at border crossings will reportedly remain open for logistics.

On Tuesday, March 17, Turkey confirmed its first COVID-19-related fatality. The patient was an 89-year-old who contracted the disease from an individual who had contact with China.  

Flights between Turkey and the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE have been suspended since 08:00 (local time) on Tuesday. This is in addition to flight suspensions between Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and the Netherlands from Saturday, March 14, through Friday, April 17. Flights to and from China, Iran, Iraq, Italy, and South Korea also remain suspended. All individuals returning from the aforementioned countries will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Border crossing points with Iran and Iraq remain closed. 

The Turkish Interior Ministry announced on Sunday, March 15, that all restaurants, bars, cafes, cinemas, and other entertainment venues will be closed nationwide from Monday, March 16, while schools and universities also remain closed. Officials have suspended public events and activities, including barring spectators at sports events and suspending congregational prayers in mosques nationwide.

The prime minister of Northern Cyprus announced on Monday that the presidential polls slated for Wednesday, April 29, will be postponed.

To date, there have been more than 90 confirmed cases of the virus in Turkey. Further international spread of COVID-19 is expected over the coming days and weeks.


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 labored 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.