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Turkey: Intercity trains halted, domestic flights limited over virus outbreak

Turkey halted all intercity trains and limited domestic flights on Saturday as part of measures to contain a fast-growing coronavirus outbreak, as the number of cases jumped by a third in a day to 5,698, with 92 dead.

President Tayyip Erdogan called on Friday for a “voluntary quarantine” in which Turks stay at home except for shopping or basic needs. Announcing new measures to contain the virus, he said all international flights were stopped, and that intercity travel would be subject to a governor’s approval.

Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi said domestic flights would only operate from Ankara and Istanbul to certain big cities as of midnight Saturday. He said passengers would need to receive permission from the governor’s office after 1400 GMT.

“As of Saturday 23:59, our domestic flights will be carried out from Istanbul Airport and Ankara Esenboga Airport. Our domestic flights’ list will be prepared and announced during the day,” Eksi wrote on Twitter.

Turkey’s state railways authority also said all intercity trains had been halted as of Saturday until further notice.

In a notice detailing the travel restrictions, the Interior Ministry said all citizens must remain in the cities they reside and would only be allowed to leave with a doctor’s note, in the event of the death of a close family member or if they have no accommodation.

It said citizens would need to apply to the Travel Permission Council, tied to the local governor’s office, to travel. All bus terminals will be equipped with medical personnel to carry out regular checks on workers and passengers, it added.

Separately, the Health Ministry announced on Friday that all resignations were suspended for there months. It said all health personnel in the public or private sector were barred from resigning in that period to meet the needs of hospitals, clinics, and other health centers.

The rate of infections in Turkey has outstripped many other countries in the last two weeks, with 2,069 more cases over the previous 24 hours, the country’s health minister said on Friday.

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