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Coronavirus: Turkey makes treatment and medicine totally free of charge

Turkish citizens able to use benefits of healthcare system even if they have not paid state insurance
Alye Gunduz, 93, is discharged from hospital in Istanbul after 10 days of treatment for Covid-19 (AFP)
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Coronavirus treatment and medicine for patients in public hospitals in Turkey has been made free of charge following a presidential decree on Tuesday.

The decree says that all patients, even if they failed to pay state insurance, will be granted protective gear and testing, as well as free medicine in state hospitals and medical centres.

A Turkish official, speaking anonymously according to government protocol, told Middle East Eye that the government had already begun allowing every citizen to use health services for free.

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“Even the citizens who failed to pay the monthly premium for the state insurance are covered until December,” the official said.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Monday that the number of coronavirus cases has reached 61,049, a rise of 4,093 in the past 24 hours.

The death toll, meanwhile, increased by 98, reaching 1,296. Nearly 4,000 people have also recovered and been discharged from hospital.

Turkey has a universal healthcare system where every citizen is required to have state insurance and make a monthly payment, which is a maximum of 88 Turkish lira ($13). Citizens without an income receive healthcare for free. The minimum wage is net 2,324 Turkish lira ($342) a month.

Citizens with state insurance are able to use private hospital services with additional fees. Earlier this month, the government also removed those fees for individuals who tested positive for coronavirus.

Mask controversy

Last week, the Turkish government announced that every citizen would receive medical masks free of charge.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday night said that over 30 million of the country's population of 82 million were able to receive free masks, and that this number would continue to rise.

However, recent reports from large cities suggest people are having difficulties obtaining masks, with free ones not necessarily available and businesses banned from selling them too.

Many have turned to Twitter to complain that they still haven’t received the codes on their mobile phones necessary to get to free masks from pharmacies.

A Turkish customer waits outside a shop to buy flour, shortly before the curfew in Istanbul (AFP)
A Turkish customer waits outside a shop to buy flour, shortly before the curfew in Istanbul (AFP)

Erdogan has said that the country has enough beds and intensive care units to deal with the outbreak, and has no shortages of protective equipment and masks. Four new hospitals are now rapidly under construction in Istanbul, which is set to provide another 2,350 beds for Covid-19 patients.

Ankara has imposed strict measures to curb the spread of the virus, banning all public gatherings, shutting down travel in and out of dozens of cities, closing schools, suspending flights from many countries and imposing a curfew on citizens under 20 and over 65.

Everyone is now required to wear a face mask while at the marketplace.

The government on Monday announced that there would be a total 24-hour curfew imposed on citizens on weekends until the crisis is over.

Only state officials who run basic services, workers of bakeries, employees of water companies and journalists are exempt from this curfew.