Turkey has temporarily closed its border with Iran on Sunday after the death toll from coronavirus increased to eight in the neighboring country.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced that all flights from Iran and crossings from the three land border gates also were unilaterally suspended.
He said Turkey did not permit eight Iranian citizens to enter the country in the last two days due to symptoms related to coronavirus. Iranians will not be able to visit Turkey as of Sunday, but Turkish citizens are allowed to go to Iran, the minister said.
The announcement came after Turkish health authorities in the eastern city of Van hospitalized four people over coronavirus suspicions as they reportedly had high fever upon returning from Iran.
Three of the four are being kept in intensive care units in Van Regional training and research hospital, according to the report.
No confirmation came from authorities as to whether any Turkish citizen has been infected with the novel coronavirus.
Koca said later on Sunday that five people taken under supervision in Van tested “negative,” stating no coronavirus cases were recorded in Turkey.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning last week about the COVID-19 outbreak, which first emerged in December in Wuhan, central China, and has spread to more than 30 countries killing 2462, according to WHO figures.
Iran has confirmed 15 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the total number to 43 with a death toll of eight. The majority of the infections have been in the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Qom.
“The virus came from China to Qom city. A Merchant from Qom who died of the virus used to regularly travel to China. Flights were suspended between the two countries but he used indirect flights,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said.
He urged people to avoid traveling to Qom, a major destination for Shi’ite pilgrims 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
“Obviously we do not recommend trips to Qom or any other holy Shi’ite cities in Iran,” Namaki said on state television.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur announced the 15 new cases earlier on Sunday.
“So far, we have 43 infected cases and the death toll is eight,” he told the television.
Eight of the new infections were recorded in Qom, where authorities have shut down schools and religious seminaries. In Tehran and some other cities, schools have been closed until Tuesday.
After the number of #coronavirus cases in neighboring Iran grow, panic spreads across the border to #Turkey border province Van, where masks sales surge. Many demand Turkey to stop flights to #Iran, doubting the ability of officials to deal with the virus in 80 million country. https://t.co/HR6ckwQPom
— Ayla Albayrak (@aylushka_a) February 22, 2020
Coronavirus cases in Iran instilled fear in Turkey’s border cities, including Van. Medical masks have seen sales boom in the city and local authorities installed thermal cameras at the border in a bid to monitor travelers if they have a high fever.
Medical Union SES Van Branch President Sezer Oren, however, asserts that closing the border gate is not the solution.
“There are constantly irregular illegal routes from Iran and the virus may come that way. There are 12 flights between Iran and Istanbul. The source of the disease is China. All our trade relations with China continue,” he said, ANF news agency reported.
“Given all this, closing the border gate is not the solution. It is necessary to provide hygiene rules, identify risk groups, and then provide protective equipment to health teams,” Oren added.
Coronavirus has killed at least 2.442 people in China, according to the official numbers. Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and North America have confirmed almost 79 thousand COVID-19 cases.
IPA, Reuters, AA