ANKARA—No coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Turkey so far, the nation’s health minister said on Monday.
Addressing reporters in the capital Ankara after a meeting of the council addressing the coronavirus threat, Fahrettin Koca said the Health Ministry and the rest of the government have taken all measures to prevent coronavirus from entering Turkey.
Amid the rapid spread of the disease in European countries, Koca urged Turkish citizens living on the continent to take protective measures.
“Turks living abroad, especially those living in Europe, should not go out unless necessary,” said Koca.
Koca also urged Turkish citizens, especially those returning from trips abroad, to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.
“Those with chronic illnesses and those age 50 and older shouldn’t go out unless necessary,” he said. “If they need to go out they should wear a mask, and if they have any flu symptoms they should consult the nearest healthcare organization.”
Koca said so far 2,000 patients have been tested but all of them are negative.
“If the coronavirus reaches Turkey, it will probably be carried by passengers traveling from abroad. Cases may be seen [eventually] in Turkey, but it is in our hands to prevent its spread,” he said.
“If we had not closed our border with Iran, about 50,000 people per week could have entered Turkey,” he added, referring to the border closure last month.
He also said that if Iran had put the pilgrimage cities of Qom and Mashhad cities under quarantine, the virus would not have spread as far.
Koca also faulted Europe for failing to take measures when the deadly virus spread to Italy.
With Turkey well prepared in the face of the coronavirus, Koca said it is not seeking help from other countries, but can lend them a helping hand.
The disease has spread to over 90 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The global death toll is now over 3,800 and almost 110,000 cases are confirmed, with the majority in China.
As part of efforts to contain the outbreak, some governments closed borders and suspended land and air travel with many countries including China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea.
After declaring the outbreak an international health emergency in January, the WHO last month updated the global risk level to very high.