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Coronavirus: Turkey quarantines thousands of pilgrims from Saudi Arabia

Turkey warns pilgrims returning from trips to Mecca and Medina to avoid contact with others
Turkish authorities have been disinfecting public areas over coronavirus fears (AFP)

Turkey has quarantined 10,330 pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia to guard against the spread of the coronavirus, the youth and sports ministry announced on Sunday. 

Five dormitories in the Ankara and Konya provinces have been cleared of students in order to house the pilgrims for 14 days. 

The pilgrims had returned from Saudi Arabia for the Umrah pilgrimage, which the Saudi government has now suspended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19.

The head of religious affairs Ali Erbas called on Sunday for returning pilgrims to not leave their homes or meet with visitors during their quarantine.

On Sunday, Turkey reported 12 new cases of patients infected by Covid-19 for a total of 18. It earlier suspended flights with nine European countries.

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On Sunday, the Interior Ministry said bars, nightclubs, dancing bars and similar venues would be closed beginning at 10am on Monday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has suspended his foreign trips, said he would hold talks with French and German leaders about solving the migration crisis next week by teleconference rather than hosting a summit as originally planned.

Erdogan announced on Thursday that schools and universities would be closed from Monday over coronavirus outbreak concerns.

Sporting events will be carried out, though without spectators, and public employees will only be able to leave the country with specific permits.

“Primary and secondary schools will be closed beginning on 16 March for a week. After that the ministry of education will continue to teach students through an online platform and TVs for another week,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Thursday.

Kalin added that universities would be closed for three weeks.

The country has also suspended family visits to prisoners for two weeks from Friday to prevent the spread of the virus.

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