Turkish health minister says coronavirus presence in Turkey very likely

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Fahrettin Koca

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Tuesday said there is a high probability that coronavirus cases are present within the country, the T24 news website reported.

Koca gave a presentation to a parliamentary committee about the measures taken by the Turkish government against the epidemic that has spread to around 100 countries across the world.

“We have placed thermal cameras at airports, one of the first actions to be taken in such a situation,” Koca said.

“On Feb. 5 we halted all flights to and from China. At that point, almost no other country had done that,” he said.

Koca added that when Iran saw a surge in infections, he personally told Iranian officials that the affected regions should be quarantined. “In the following days we closed our border with Iran,” he said.

“Italy has started to become a hub. The reason was that 32 of their citizens who were brought back were allowed to go home without being quarantined,” the minister said. “These people affected all of Europe as they [Europeans] were and still are late in taking measures.”

“Closing the border with Iran works to some extent, but I am not as comfortable when it comes to Europe as there is much travel between countries,” Koca said. “It is very probable that the epidemic has arrived in Turkey but has not been confirmed. I’m not saying this to prepare the public for some announcement; this is a reality.”

“Our citizens returning from abroad should self-quarantine at home for 14 days.”

Turkey has not confirmed any cases of coronavirus thus far.

The global death toll is now over 3,800, and almost 110,000 cases have been confirmed, with the majority in China.

As part of efforts to contain the outbreak, some governments have closed borders and suspended land and air travel with countries including China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. Several countries have banned public gatherings and sporting events.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak an international health emergency and later updated the global risk assessment to very high.

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