March 17, 2020 / 7:16 AM / 19 days ago

Turkey detains 19 people over 'provocative' coronavirus posts

Workers in protective suits disinfect St. Stefan Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Istanbul,Turkey March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey has identified 93 suspects who have made “unfounded and provocative” postings on social media about the coronavirus outbreak and has detained 19 of them, the Turkish Interior Ministry said.

The move came as Turkey closed cafes, entertainment and sports venues, suspended mass prayers in mosques and extended a flight ban to 20 countries to contain the coronavirus spread, as the number of confirmed cases rose to 47.

The interior ministry statement said there were social media posts which were targeting officials and spreading panic and fear by suggesting that the virus had spread widely in Turkey and that officials had taken insufficient measures.

“Nineteen of these suspects have been detained and the process of detaining others who have been identified is continuing,” said the statement, issued late on Monday.

Last Wednesday, Turkey became the last major economy to report an outbreak of coronavirus and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced 29 newly confirmed cases late on Monday, bringing the total to 47. No deaths have been reported.

The Istanbul governor’s office said on Monday that Turkish citizens who request to return from nine European countries would be brought back by midnight on March 17 on condition that they are quarantined for 14 days.

Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans

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