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Coronavirus: Turkey pandemic case numbers overtake Iran, highest in Middle East

Turkey's confirmed coronavirus infections increase to 82,329, exceed neighbouring Iran for first time
Police officers check vehicles on Saturday on the empty Ataturk Airport road during curfew imposed to stem the spread of novel coronavirus (AFP)

Turkey's confirmed coronavirus cases have risen to 82,329, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Saturday, overtaking neighbouring Iran for the first time to register the highest total in the Middle East.

An increase of 3,783 cases in the previous 24 hours also pushed Turkey's confirmed tally to within a few hundred of China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged.

China had 82,719 reported cases as of Saturday, according to the Worldometer tally. Iran had 80,868 cases of the virus, known officially as Covid-19.

Koca said 121 more people had died, taking Turkey’s death toll to 1,890. A total of 10,453 people have recovered from coronavirus so far, and the number of tests carried out over the past 24 hours was 40,520, the minister said.

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The interior ministry said it was extending restrictions on travel between 31 cities for a further 15 days, starting at midnight on Saturday.

Earlier this week, coronavirus treatment and medicine for patients in Turkey's public hospitals became free of charge by presidential decree, MEE reported.

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

A Turkish official, speaking anonymously according to government protocol, told Middle East Eye on Tuesday that the government had already begun allowing citizens to use health services at no charge.

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

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

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