Coronavirus: Turkey quarantines thousands of pilgrims from Saudi Arabia

16 Mars, 2020, 15:41 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Workers in protective suits disinfect Molla Seref Mosque in Istanbul Turkey

Muslim worshippers wear masks after the noon prayers outside the Grand Mosque in Mecca on March 7.

Thousands of Muslims returning to Turkey from a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia were being taken into quarantine on Sunday due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, Turkish officials said.

Turkey has identified 12 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing its total to 18, marking the highest daily rise since the country announced its first case last week.

Television pictures showed buses transporting pilgrims along the highway from Ankara's airport to the city as part of an operation to place those returning into student dormitories.

Approximately 10,000 pilgrims returned from Saudi Arabia Saturday night, youth and sports minister Mehmet Kasapoglu was quoted as saying by the official Anadolu news agency.

Koca said one of the pilgrims who returned from the umrah - the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca - over the last week had tested positive.

"Those found suspicious are hospitalised as soon as they return and tested", he said.

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Turkey's religious affairs authority, Diyanet, said the travels for pilgrimage have been halted from Feb 27.

Turkey had mobilised all resources to confront this "unprecedented challenge", he added.

The global death toll from the virus has surpassed 5,700, with more than 152,000 cases confirmed worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

On Sunday, the Interior Ministry said bars, nightclubs, dancing bars and similar venues would be closed beginning at 10am on Monday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has suspended his foreign trips, said he would hold talks with French and German leaders about solving the migration crisis next week by teleconference rather than hosting a summit as originally planned.

Sporting events will be carried out, though without spectators, and public employees will only be able to leave the country with specific permits.

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