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Coronavirus: Turkey lifts ban on export of medical equipment to fight virus

Lifting of restrictions is opportunity for Turkish companies that have increased their production capacities since start of pandemic
A man in an Ankara street this week wears a face shield and mask, of which there are no shortages in Turkey (AFP)

Turkey on Saturday lifted restrictions on the export of medical supplies, a move that should facilitate the sale of equipment to western countries where there have been shortages.

The commerce ministry lifted the restrictions on the sale abroad of respirators, intubators and disinfectants such as ethanol, according to a decree published in the official journal, AFP reported.

Previously the sale of such supplies was either prohibited or subject to a requirement to obtain authorisation from the Turkish government, with permission given sparingly.

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"These restrictions were put in place temporarily in response to the pandemic. The decision to allow exports reflects... Turkey's growing capacity to contain the coronavirus," a presidential official told foreign media.

The lifting of the restrictions represents an opportunity for Turkish companies that have considerably increased their production capacities since the start of the pandemic, at a time when many countries are still struggling to obtain adequate supplies of medical equipment.

Unlike other countries, Turkey has no shortage of respirators or masks.

Turkey has recorded more than 3,300 Covid-19 deaths with almost 125,000 infections.

The daily death toll has been on a downward trajectory for more than 10 days, with 78 deaths confirmed in the past 24 hours, according to health ministry data on Saturday, Reuters said.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca credits the country's contact-tracing efforts, along with Turks' largely voluntary adherence to lockdown measures, for the trend.

In contrast to South Korea, which limited deaths to less than 250 with the help of a contact-tracing app, Turkey has taken a more labour-intensive approach.

Koca said on Wednesday that about 5,800 teams of two or three medics had identified 468,390 people who have been in contact with coronavirus patients. He said about 99 percent of those had been reached and were regularly monitored by health officials.

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