ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey identified 12 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its total to 18, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Monday, marking the highest daily rise since the country announced its first case last week.
Koca said two of the new cases were related to the first case reported in the country, seven had traveled from Europe and three from the United States.
Last Wednesday, Turkey became the last major economy to report an outbreak after taking what the World Health Organization (WHO) described as “vigilant” measures to delay it.
Since then, the government has ramped up measures to halt the spread of the virus, closing schools and universities, holding sports events without spectators and halting flights to many countries.
The Istanbul governor’s office said on Monday that Turkish citizens who request to return from nine European countries will be brought back until midnight on March 17 on condition that they are quarantined. They will be housed for 14 days in three student dormitories in Istanbul, the city’s governor said.
The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) warned on Monday that the real number of cases may be higher than officially reported, and the recent trend indicated that the epidemic could reach serious levels.
“We are hearing from doctors all around the country that the number of cases is much higher than 18,” TTB head Sinan Adiyaman told a news conference.
“The picture emerging in the last few days suggests that the epidemic could reach serious levels, we advise those older than 65 to stay at home,” he said.
Separately, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said on Monday that all non-emergency court hearings will be delayed.
Thousands of Muslims returning to Turkey from a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia were taken into quarantine on Sunday and the Interior Ministry said that bars and nightclubs will be closed from Monday to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.
Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Dominic Evans
Image: A worker in a protective suit disinfects the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY