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Coronavirus: Turkey death toll rises to three as football leagues suspended

The third recorded fatality from the virus in the country was a retired general, the health ministry has said
People wear face masks to protect against COVID-19 as they walk along Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on 17 March 2020 (AFP)
By in
Istanbul, Turkey

The coronavirus death toll in Turkey has risen to three, a top Turkish health official said on Thursday during a parliamentary address.

Turkish health minister Fahrettin Koca said that retired general Aytac Yalman, who died on Monday, was suspected to have been infected by the virus even though his previous test was negative.

“Several tests have been made on his family and his close circle, including the officers club he used to visit,” Koca said. “And several individuals, including his wife, tested positive. That’s why we believe he died of the virus.”

Turkey announced its first death from the novel coronavirus on Tuesday. On Wednesday Koca reported a second death, that of a 61-year-old man, and said that cases had jumped by 93 in one day, bringing the total tally to 191.

Sports events shut down

Turkey has also indefinitely postponed all sports events, including professional football leagues. Minister of Youth and Sports Mehmet Kasapoglu said the decision was taken after talks with sports authorities.

“It has been agreed that all volleyball, basketball and football leagues be temporarily suspended as part of the broader precautions against the pandemic.” he said. “We took this step to minimise the possible casualties.”

A worker disinfects the Kilic Ali Pasa Mosque in Istanbul on 11 March 2020 (AFP)

Turkey last week decided that all sports events would take place without spectators. Yet some foreign professionals feared that they could still get infected and demanded that the games must be suspended.

Koca, during an address to parliament, said that Turkey has already carried out 10,000 tests. With results available within 15 minutes, it intends to increase the number to more than 15,000 tests in a day.

“Now we have a different algorithm. In the past we were looking for a foreign contact. From now on, we will test everyone.” he said.

Koca also acknowledged that the US has purchased half-a-million tests produced in Turkey.

Turkey has already passed strict measures to curb an outbreak of the virus, including closing down schools, universities, mosques; and barring flights from more than a dozen different countries including the UK, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ireland and United Arab Emirates. Flights to and from nine European countries, including France, Germany, and Spain, were already prohibited.

As of now, only restaurants with licences have been allowed to remain open.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also announced a $15.5bn stimulus package on Wednesday that seeks to revive the country's economy and ease financial burdens on businesses and individuals impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

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