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Health minister urges reducing contact as Turkey’s COVID-19 death toll exceeds 10,000

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Turkey’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 10,027 as the country’s most highly populated city of Istanbul is seeing a 62 percent weekly surge in the number of coronavirus cases, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at a press conference in İstanbul, urging residents to limit contact with others to cut down on community spread.

Koca was speaking following a meeting of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board on Wednesday.

“If we don’t get ahold of the situation in Istanbul, the outbreak will spiral out of control,” Koca warned, adding that the country recorded 2,300 new COVID-19 patients on Wednesday.

İstanbul has registered a more than 85 percent increase in COVID-19 infections in the last seven days, compared to last month’s average, the minister said.

“It is frightening when this rate is taken into account, with 16.5 million people living in the city. The increase [in infections] is also high in cities from where people come to Istanbul every day.”

According to the minister the biggest reason for the spiking infection rate in the metropolis is public transportation, as millions of workers pack mass transit systems during rush hour, creating an ideal environment for the virus to spread.

Koca said residents should reduce physical contact and not leave their homes “unless they have to” as the virus is currently being transmitted from one person to an average of three people in Turkey.

“We need your support more than ever now. Do not go outside unless you have to. Do not travel unless those trips are mandatory. Postpone non-essential celebrations and ceremonies. This stage requires discipline,” he underlined.

When asked if the government is considering reimplementing travel restrictions or weekend curfews on a regional basis, Koca said that such measures were not being considered at the moment.

The minister argued that İstanbul has the medical infrastructure required to successfully overcome the virus outbreak, with 55 percent of hospital beds and 66 percent of intensive care units currently occupied in the city, where more than 60,000 tests are now being carried out every day.

Koca announced last week that the number of cases in İstanbul reached a level that translates to 40 percent of countrywide cases and was five times higher than the cases in the capital city of Ankara, which led the country in COVID-19 cases until recently.

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