Turkey could impose stay-at-home order if coronavirus outbreak worsens

The government announced a stay at home measure for people older than 65 over the weekend, but not for the general public as some other countries have done. (AFP)
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Updated 26 March 2020

Turkey could impose stay-at-home order if coronavirus outbreak worsens

  • The highly contagious respiratory disease has killed 59 in Turkey after cases surged in two weeks to 2,433

ANKARA: Turkey could order the public to stay at home if coronavirus infections continue to spread, the government said on Thursday as it clamped down further on medical equipment leaving the country.
The government announced such a measure for people older than 65 over the weekend, but not for the general public as some other countries have done.
Istanbul’s mayor urged national authorities to do so on Thursday, saying nearly a million people were still using public transportation in the country’s largest city.
The highly contagious respiratory disease has killed 59 in Turkey after cases surged in two weeks to 2,433.
“Complete social isolation is always on our agenda,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on AHaber TV. Asked whether a complete curfew would be announced, he said: “If we cannot prevent the epidemic with these measures, we can of course take the highest measure.”
To contain the virus, Ankara has closed schools, cafes and bars, banned mass prayers, and suspended sports matches and flights. President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey, which has a population of about 83 million, would overcome the coronavirus outbreak in two to three weeks.
However, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu called on the government to impose a general stay-at-home order, at least in his city if it was not possible nationwide.
“We are in the most critical phase of the outbreak,” he said on Twitter. “If the necessary steps aren’t taken today, it is evident there will be disappointment in the future.”
Separately on Thursday, the government decreed that companies now need permission from authorities to export medical tools used for respiratory support, given rising domestic demand.
The rule covers the export ventilators and related gear, oxygen concentrators, intubation tubes and intensive care monitors, and other medical equipment. Ankara previously said it would stop exporting locally made face masks.
Turkey’s Higher Education Council said there would be no face-to-face classes in the spring term, distance learning would continue and university exams would be postponed to July 25-26.
Separately the central government said all municipality meetings in April, May and June, should be postponed except under extraordinary circumstances.


Millions in Lebanon risk food insecurity over coronavirus lockdown: Human Rights Watch

Updated 1 min 6 sec ago

Millions in Lebanon risk food insecurity over coronavirus lockdown: Human Rights Watch

  • Before the pandemic erupted, Lebanon was struggling with its worst economic crisis in decades
  • Lockdown measures to slow the spread of the virus have made matters worse with “millions of Lebanon’s residents... at risk of going hungry,” HRW said

BEIRUT: Millions in Lebanon risk food insecurity due to a coronavirus lockdown unless the government provides urgent assistance, Human Rights Watch warned Wednesday.
Lebanon in mid-March ordered residents to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close to halt the spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected 575 people and killed 19 nationwide.
Before the pandemic erupted, Lebanon was struggling with its worst economic crisis in decades, with 45 percent of the population facing poverty according to official estimates.
Lockdown measures to slow the spread of the virus have made matters worse with “millions of Lebanon’s residents... at risk of going hungry,” HRW said in a statement.
Lebanon is home to 4.5 million people, and also hosts around 1.5 million Syrians who have fled the nine-year war next door, most of whom rely on aid to survive.
“The lockdown... has compounded the poverty and economic hardship rampant in Lebanon before the virus arrived,” said HRW senior researcher Lena Simet.
“Many people who had an income have lost it, and if the government does not step in, more than half the population may not be able to afford food and basic necessities.”
The economic crisis since last year had already caused many people to lose their jobs or take salary cuts, and stay-at-home measures to counter the virus have now prevented even more from earning a wage.
Media has carried reports of a taxi driver who set his car on fire after security forces fined him for breaking the lockdown rules.
And an unemployed Lebanese construction worker unable to afford rent offered to sell his kidney, in an image widely shared online.
HRW Lebanon researcher Aya Majzoub said many families are struggling due to a lack of savings.
The government has said it will pay out 400,000 Lebanese pounds (less than $150 at the market rate) to the most vulnerable.
HRW said the government should also consider suspending rent and mortgage payments throughout the lockdown.
Majzoub said Syrian refugees were also affected.
“Many of them were seasonal workers — they worked in agriculture, they worked in the service industry — and they’re not able to do that anymore,” she said.
But their ability to cope will depend largely on international aid, as before the pandemic.
The World Bank last week said it had re-allocated $40 million from its support to Lebanon’s health sector to fight the virus, including for tests and ventilators.
And it has also been discussing “assistance to help mitigate the impact of the economic and financial crisis on the poor through emergency social safety nets,” World Bank spokeswoman Zeina El-Khalil told AFP in March.
On Monday, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun urged the international community to provide financial assistance to back economic reforms.