Coronavirus: Turkey accuses Saudi Arabia of concealing cases of Covid-19
Turkey has accused Saudi Arabia of concealing the number of coronavirus among pilgrims, with the decision hampering international efforts to contain the spread of the disease.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Thursday that Turkey's first cases of the coronavirus was only detected after tests were carried out on pilgrims returning after performing the Umrah pilgrimage.
"Saudi Arabia did not inform us or the world about any cases," Soylu was quoted by Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency as saying.
"People returned from Umrah [lesser pilgrimage]. The health ministry took measures right after the first case was observed" and put the pilgrims in isolation centres," he added.
Turkey has taken drastic steps to contain the spread of Covid-19, quarantining more than 10,000 pilgrims who returned to the country from Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, the kingdom issued a lockdown on Thursday in Mecca and Medina, two of Islam's holiest cities, to contain the spread of the disease.
So far, Riyadh has recorded 1,102 cases of the virus and three coronavirus-related deaths.
On Thursday, Turkey announced 16 new deaths from the disease, bringing the total number to 75.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the total number of infections had reached 3,629, after 7,286 tests were conducted on Thursday.
Turkey has carried out roughly 40,000 tests after receiving 50,000 rapid test kits, which deliver results in 15 minutes, from China.
Ankara said it would receive another 300,000 test kits from Beijing on Thursday.
Turkey has also been using a drug from China to treat patients who have the virus.
Since the virus has reached Turkey, the government has unleashed an array of measures aimed at curbing its spread, including closing down schools, universities, cafes, mass prayers, and indefinitely postponed matches in its main sports leagues, as well suspending flights to many countries as it looks to limit the spread of the virus.
The Interior Ministry also announced that grocery store and supermarket hours will be limited to between 9am and 9pm, with a maximum of one customer for every 10 square metres of shop space.
Turkish authorities have ordered those aged 65 and above and those with chronic illnesses to stay at home, while most public spaces have been temporarily closed.