March 24, 2020 / 6:13 AM / 15 days ago

Turkey steps up aid to elderly, tightens curbs as virus toll rises

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s government increased support for elderly people isolated at home and tightened restrictions on food shopping and travel on Tuesday after the country’s death toll from the coronavirus rose to 37.

A worker in a protective suit sprays disinfectant at a market place to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Diyarbakir, Turkey, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

At the weekend, Turkey imposed a partial curfew on citizens aged over 65 or with chronic diseases and created groups to meet their needs in a bid to stem the spread of the outbreak among the most vulnerable.

The groups have so far answered more than 120,000 requests for material aid, the Interior Ministry said.

“I haven’t gone out for a month,” said Seher Poyraz, 67, following a delivery of food to her Istanbul home, where she lives alone. “I bought some supplies but they are almost finished now.”

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced the new death toll late on Monday and said confirmed cases had risen by 293 to 1,529. [L8N2BG98C]

He also said Turkey would hire 32,000 more medical staff and stop exporting locally made face masks so its own services can use them.

Turkey has ordered rapid testing kits from China, as well as medicine that he said he been used to treat coronavirus patients. The medication was distributed to provinces by ambulance planes on Monday night, the health ministry said.

Some 50,000 kits had already arrived from China and arrangements have been made to use one million, Koca said.

Ankara has already closed schools, cafes and bars, banned mass prayers, postponed sports matches, and suspended flights to many countries.

On Tuesday, it also imposed restrictions on grocery store opening hours and numbers of customers allowed in shops and bus passengers to 50% of the vehicle’s capacity.

The Turkish Competition Board said late on Monday there had been opportunist, excessive food price rises, notably for fruit and vegetable products, and said it would impose severe fines on those found to be responsible.

Among the more unusual measures to contain the virus, Tuesday’s edition of the widely read Sozcu newspaper was wrapped in a plain white, discardable covering to prevent the risk of the paper contaminating readers.

Additional reporting by Umit Bektas; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans and John Stonestreet

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