Turkish health minister urges caution over Istanbul’s ‘frightening’ COVID-19 infection rate

Turkey cannot cope with the coronavirus pandemic unless it controls its largest city of Istanbul,which accounts for 40 percent of all infections in the country, Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday.

Every four out of 10 people in the country who test positive for Covid-19 are in Istanbul, T24 news site cited Koca as saying, adding that the infection rate in the city of some 16 million was “frightening.’’

Moreover, the city had seen a 62 percent climb in cases of the last week, he added.

Koca’s warning arrives as the country on Wednesday announced 2,305 new cases in the past 24 hours, with 77 more deaths linked to the deadly virus, bringing the total death toll in the country to 10,027.

Turkey is facing a threat similar to that of April, Koca said, one month after the first case in the country was reported.

Turkey’s top health official went on to say the ministry was particularly concerned with public transportation in the megacity, saying that institutions had been asked to give employees the option of working from home, if applicable.

But the health official stopped short of announcing the enforcement of new restrictions as expected, calling on citizens to continue wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and hygiene precautions. 

“Let us reduce movement and contact by one third,’’ Koca said. “Do not leave your homes unless you have to and reduce family visits.’’ 

Meanwhile, Germany's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday said it was extending a partial travel warning for Turkey to the whole country effective Nov. 9, Reuters reported.

The Turkish Health Ministry on Tuesday banned healthcare workers from resigning from their posts and suspended all annual leaves amid soaring infections.