March 19, 2020 / 9:18 PM / 18 days ago

Turkey postpones events until end-April over coronavirus

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree on Friday postponing all events related to science, culture and art, as it seeks to contain a surge in coronavirus cases.

A worker in protective suit disinfects a residential area in response to the spreading coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Istanbul,Turkey March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

The country’s death toll has reached four, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Thursday, after an 85-year-old woman died of the highly contagious respiratory illness.

The number of confirmed cases in the country has surged since the first case was announced last week, reaching 359 on Thursday. The cases have roughly doubled every day since Sunday.

Koca said Turkey had conducted 1,981 test in 24 hours to midnight Thursday, 168 of which came back positive.

The decree published in the Official Gazette on Friday said all meetings and activities, indoors or outdoors, related to science, culture, art and other similar fields would be postponed until the end of April.

State-owned Anadolu news agency quoted Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu as saying on Thursday that a total of 9,800 people were quarantined.

Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turks should stay home for at least three weeks, but did not ask them to stay away from work.

Ankara has suspended flights to 20 countries, closed schools, cafes and bars, banned mass prayers and indefinitely postponed matches in its main sports leagues.

To alleviate the economic impacts of the virus, the central bank cut its policy rate by 100 basis points to 9.75%, while the government revealed a $15 bln package to support businesses.

Clothing retailers shuttered, dimming the economy’s prospects and raising questions for hundreds of thousands of workers. Malls, with some 530,000 employees and annual turnover of $160 billion, were set to follow suit.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans

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