Turkey hints curfew could come if coronavirus spread worsens

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks during a news conference following a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) meeting in Ankara, Turkey, March 18, 2020. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey can resort to the “highest measure” of adopting a complete curfew if coronavirus infections continue to spread, the government said on Thursday as it clamped down further on medical tools leaving the country.

Turkey had announced a partial curfew for senior citizens older than 65 over the weekend, but not for the general public as some other hard-hit countries have done.

The highly contagious respiratory disease has killed 59 in Turkey after cases surged in two weeks to 2,433, the world’s nineteenth highest here count.

“Complete social isolation is always on our agenda,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on AHaber TV. Asked whether a complete curfew would be announced, he said: “If we cannot prevent the epidemic with these measures, we can of course take the highest measure.”

To contain the virus, Ankara has closed schools, cafes and bars, banned mass prayers, and suspending sports matches and flights. President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will overcome the coronavirus outbreak in two to three weeks.

Separately on Thursday, the government decreed that companies now need permission from authorities to export medical tools used for respiratory support, given rising domestic demand.

The rule covers the export ventilators and related gear, oxygen concentrators, intubation tubes and intensive care monitors, and other medical equipment. Ankara previously said it would stop exporting locally made face masks.

Turkey’s Higher Education Council said there would be no face-to-face classes in the spring term, distance learning would continue and the university exam would be postponed to July 25-26.

Separately the central government said all municipality meetings in April, May and June, should be postponed except under extraordinary circumstances.

Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Jonathan Spicer

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