Turkish Airlines plane flies home empty after Singapore coronavirus case

Singapore’s aviation regulator said the Turkish Airlines pilots and crew of flight TK54 would be placed in quarantine on their return to Istanbul. (AFP)
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Updated 05 March 2020

Turkish Airlines plane flies home empty after Singapore coronavirus case

  • Infected passenger was not Turkish and transited through Istanbul en route to Singapore from another location
  • Turkish Airlines crew tested negative for the virus in Singapore

SINGAPORE/ISTANBUL: A Turkish Airlines aircraft was flown back to Istanbul without any passengers on board on Thursday on orders from authorities in Singapore after a passenger who had arrived on the same plane on Tuesday tested positive for coronavirus.
The infected passenger was not Turkish and transited through Istanbul en route to Singapore from another location, a Turkish aviation official told Reuters, adding there were 143 passengers aboard the flight, as well as three pilots and 10 crew members.
Singapore’s aviation regulator said that the pilots and crew of flight TK54 that had arrived on Tuesday were on the return flight to Istanbul, where they would be placed in quarantine. The aviation official said the crew tested negative for the virus in Singapore.
“The crew had come into close contact with a passenger on flight TK54 who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19,” the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in contact with the Turkish Embassy, which has confirmed that the crew will be quarantined upon arrival at Istanbul,” CAAS said.
Singapore’s transport ministry said in a statement on its website that authorities had begun tracing passengers on flight TK54 that may have had contact with the infected person.
Turkish Airlines declined to comment.
Singapore had 112 confirmed cases of coronavirus, which started in China, but a large majority of the patients in the city-state have recovered and been discharged from hospital.
Turkey has had no reported cases of the virus.


WHO: Middle East at ‘critical threshold’ in coronavirus numbers

Updated 3 min 1 sec ago

WHO: Middle East at ‘critical threshold’ in coronavirus numbers

  • Over 80 percent of all deaths in the region were reported in five countries — Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

CAIRO: The World Health Organization warned Wednesday the Middle East was at a decisive moment in the fight against the novel coronavirus, with cases surging as countries ease lockdown measures.
“We are at a critical threshold in our region,” the WHO’s Middle East head, Ahmed Al-Mandhari, said in an online press conference.
According to figures published by the global health body on Wednesday, the 22 countries from Morocco to Pakistan had recorded 1,077,706 novel coronavirus cases and 24,973 deaths.
Mandhari said passing a million infections marked a “concerning milestone” and urged countries to strengthen their health care systems.
“The number of cases reported in June alone is higher than the total number of cases reported during the four months following the first reported case in the region on 29 January,” he said.
He attributed the rise in confirmed cases to increased testing, the easing in recent weeks of lockdown measures and weakened health infrastructure in conflict-hit countries.
Over 80 percent of all deaths in the region were reported in five countries — Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — according to the WHO.
Iran, which has been struggling to contain the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak, on Monday recorded its highest single-day COVID death toll of 162.
It now has a recorded a total of 230,211 infections and 10,958 deaths.
Official figures have shown a rising trajectory in new confirmed cases since early May, when Iran hit a near two-month low in daily recorded infections.
The Islamic republic gradually lifted restrictions from April to try to reopen its sanctions-hit economy.
In neighboring Iraq, authorities have refused to reimpose strict lockdown measures, even as hospitals across the country, battered by years of war, have been swamped in recent weeks.
While the virus had spread relatively slowly for months, on Wednesday the number of recorded cases surpassed 51,000 including more than 2,000 deaths.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with 100 million inhabitants, has officially reported 68,000 cases and around 3,000 deaths from the COVID-19 disease.
On Wednesday, authorities reopened the famed Giza pyramids after a three-month closure, a day after resuming international flights as part of efforts to restart the vital tourism industry.
Lebanon, battling an economic crisis and public unrest alongside the novel coronavirus, reopened the Beirut airport after months of closure.
The small eastern Mediterranean state has recorded some of the lowest infection and mortality rates in the Middle East: 1,800 cases and just 34 deaths.
In contrast, neighboring Israel saw a jump of about 15 percent in case numbers in the last week to over 25,500 on Wednesday, according to government figures.
The West Bank too was hit by a sharp spike in infections, with the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday announcing a five-day lockdown across the territory.
Total confirmed coronavirus infections in the territory more than doubled within a week to 2,636 following the easing of previous restrictions.
In Qatar, residents cautiously returned to beaches on Wednesday as the Gulf nation, with one of the world’s highest per-capita infection rates and tough penalties for failing to wear masks in public, continued to reopen.
WHO officials at the virtual meeting urged governments to prepare more intensive care beds and emergency wards.
Mandhari urged individuals to be “cautious and vigilant” as lockdowns and curfews were eased, and to follow protocols recommended by health authorities.
“Easing of lockdowns does not mean easing of the response or easing of social responsibilities,” he said, warning cases could rise as public spaces reopen “even in countries where the situation now seems to be stabilizing.”
He also called for global solidarity.
“We have to face this pandemic as one government and one community,” he said.