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Shutdown to stem coronavirus spread strands thousands at Istanbul Airport: report

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Around 2,000 people have been stranded for a week at Istanbul Airport by a shutdown of flights to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Reuters reported, citing the airport’s operator.

More than half the travelers stuck at the airport, usually one of the world’s busiest international hubs, are Algerian citizens, with others from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, a spokesperson for airport operator IGA said.

Turkey has halted flights to some 70 countries in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 375,000 people worldwide and killed more than 16,000, according to data from the World Health Organization.

“There are around 1,500 Algerians stranded at Istanbul Airport right now,” the spokesperson said, adding that Algerian authorities were not allowing their return for the time being.

Algeria’s state carrier, Air Algérie, said on Monday that all passenger flights were suspended. A source at the airline said no final decision had been made on repatriation. “It is up to the government to make the decision,” the source said.

Video footage posted on social media this week appeared to show scuffles between police and passengers wearing medical masks at an Istanbul Airport terminal building.

The airport operator, along with Turkish Airlines and the Turkish Red Crescent, are providing meals and essentials for the people stuck at the airport, IGA said in a statement.

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