Turkey declares first coronavirus case, praised by WHO for vigilance

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 11, 2020, 10.17 PM(IST)

A municipality worker wearing protective suit sanitises a coffee shop in Karaagac district against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) near Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing with Greece's Kastanies, in Edirne, Turkey, March 10, 2020. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Health Minister Fahrettin Koca confirmed early on Wednesday that a Turkish man had been isolated after being diagnosed with the virus following high fever and a cough.

Turkey on Wednesday confirmed the first case of coronavirus, becoming the last major economy to report an outbreak after taking what the World Health Organization (WHO) described as "vigilant, cautious" measures to delay the disease.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca confirmed early on Wednesday that a Turkish man had been isolated after being diagnosed with the virus following high fever and a cough.

"This is the first case confirmed in our country. The findings show the diagnosis of coronavirus was made early and if the virus has spread it is limited," he told a news conference.

"Our country is prepared for this. All measures to prevent the spread (of the virus) have been taken," he said, referring to comprehensive screening and testing programmes.

Until the announcement, Turkey - a member of the Group of 20 biggest global economies and a major transit hub between Europe, Asia and Africa - had officially managed to avoid an outbreak, though all its neighbours except war-ravaged Syria had reported cases. 

Iran has an especially high number of cases.

In an interview hours before the announcement of the first case, Irshad Shaikh, the WHO Health Security Program Leader in Turkey, praised Ankara's preventative measures and good organisation, saying it had been "very lucky, vigilant and cautious".

Turkey's tourism sector, which accounts for about 13% of its economy, stepped up calls on the government for financial help to deal with the expected negative impact of the outbreak.

Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said a support package for the sector would be announced within the week. He added Turkey would move to reduce tourist demand until the end of April, and hotels had been advised to postpone summer openings.

The Tourism Evaluation Council said it suggested financial support for tour operators and airlines, reductions in utilities costs, and measures to increase bookings. It added the sector is "starting to be negatively impacted".

Medical firms have been told to prioritise local demand, the government said.