Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Monday, April 20, that a four-day lockdown will be in effect in 31 cities from Thursday, April 23, to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The country has previously imposed such measures over the past two weekends, but authorities stated that the upcoming lockdown will be longer due to a national holiday on April 23 and weekend lockdowns could continue for some time. All entry and exit into the impacted municipalities is prohibited, except for the transport of essential supplies. In some areas, parks and shorelines are also closed to pedestrians and inter-city bus and ferry service. A partial curfew is in place for citizens under the age of 20, prohibiting them from leaving their homes. Wearing a mask in public places and crowded factories is mandatory for all individuals.
Turkey now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the Middle East, surpassing Iran with 90,980 confirmed cases and 2140 fatalities as of Monday, April 20. Health authorities carried out 39,703 tests on April 20 and confirmed 4674 new cases on the same day. Another 1909 individuals are currently being treated in intensive care units.
Meanwhile, all schools, universities, restaurants, bars, cafes, and cinemas remain closed nationwide. Supermarket opening hours are 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.
All international flights are suspended indefinitely. A travel ban remains in place 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 also remain closed.
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.