Turkey could order the public to stay at home if coronavirus infections continue to spread, the government said on Thursday as it clamped down further on medical equipment leaving the country, Reuters reported.
The government announced a stay-at-home measure for people older than 65 over the weekend but not for the general public as some other countries have done.
Istanbul’s mayor urged national authorities to do so on Thursday, saying nearly a million people were still using public transportation in the country’s largest city.
The highly contagious respiratory disease has killed 59 in Turkey after cases surged in two weeks to 2,433.
“Complete social isolation is always on our agenda,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on AHaber TV. Asked whether a complete curfew would be announced, he said, “If we can’t prevent spread of the epidemic with the steps we’ve already taken, we can of course take the most stringent measure.”
To contain the virus Ankara has closed schools, cafes and bars, banned community prayers and suspended sports matches and flights. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey, which has a population of about 83 million, would overcome the coronavirus outbreak in two to three weeks.
However Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu called on the government to impose a general stay-at-home order, at least in his city if it was not possible nationwide.
“We are in the most critical phase of the outbreak,” he said on Twitter. “If the necessary steps aren’t taken today, we’ll regret it in the future.”
Separately on Thursday, the government decreed that companies now need permission from authorities to export medical equipment used for respiratory support, given rising domestic demand.
The rule covers ventilators and related equipment, oxygen concentrators, intubation tubes, intensive care monitors and other medical equipment. Ankara previously said it would stop exporting locally made face masks.
Turkey’s Higher Education Council said there would be no face-to-face classes in the spring term, distance learning would continue and university exams would be postponed to July 25-26.
Separately, the central government said all municipal meetings in April, May and June should be postponed except under extraordinary circumstances.