Erdogan Urges Voluntary Lockdown as Turkey Virus Deaths Rise

Taylan Bilgic
Erdogan Urges Voluntary Lockdown as Turkey Virus Deaths Rise

(Bloomberg) --

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced new measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus, imposing further restrictions on people’s movement and banning large gatherings.

Addressing the nation from Istanbul late Friday, Erdogan said everyone must observe “voluntary quarantine” or face more stringent controls.

The Turkish leader announced all flights abroad were suspended and that intercity travel was banned unless authorized by authorities. Some public areas such as picnic spots will be closed during weekends and large groups won’t be allowed in on weekdays. The governors of Turkey’s 30 largest cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, were granted greater powers to implement the limitations, he said.

Bilal Eksi, the chief executive officer of Turkish Airlines, said in a Twitter post that domestic flights would be limited between 14 cities starting from Sunday. In normal circumstances, the flagship carrier flies to 42 domestic destinations, according to its website. Low-cost airline Pegasus said all domestic flights between March 28 and April 30 have been canceled.

Erdogan’s speech followed fresh figures that present a worrisome increase in coronavirus cases. Earlier Friday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Turkey tested 7,533 people over the last 24 hours, diagnosing 2,069 infections. The total number of cases rose to 5,698, while fatalities reached 92, the minister said.

“People should meet each other as rarely as possible,” Koca said. “Working hours, work days and holidays should be arranged.”

Turkey had its first coronavirus case March 11, while the first fatality occurred March 17.

READ: Turkey’s Top Businesses Urge Erdogan to Do More on Virus Fallout

(Updates with airlines in fourth paragraph.)

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