By Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ezgi Erkoyun
ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey will overcome the coronavirus outbreak in two to three weeks through good measures, with as little damage as possible, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, as Ankara extended the closure of all schools until April 30.
Turkey’s death toll from the coronavirus jumped by 15 to 59 on Wednesday, and the number of confirmed cases increased by 561 to 2,433. Around 33,000 tests have been conducted in Turkey in the two weeks since the beginning of the outbreak.
In a televised address to the nation, Erdogan said Turkey was prepared for every scenario on the outbreak and urged Turks to show patience, understanding and support.
“By breaking the speed of the virus’ spread in two to three weeks, we will get through this period as soon as possible with as little damage as possible,” Erdogan said.
“Bright days await us, so long as we adhere by the warnings, remain cautious and careful,” he added. “Every citizen’s life is equally valuable for us. That is why we say ‘Stay Home Turkey’.”
Turkey has taken a series of measures to contain the virus, including limiting the use of public spaces, imposing a partial curfew on the elderly, as well as closing schools, cafes and bars, banning mass prayers, and suspending sports matches and flights.
Earlier on Wednesday, Education Minister Ziya Selcuk said the closure of all schools would be extended until April 30, and said home schooling would continue during this period.
“We will enrich efforts and make sure to meet all needs,” Selcuk told reporters in Ankara. “We can make up for the lost education, but we can’t make up for a disease. What is key is our students’ health.”
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, speaking alongside Selcuk, said the move was not a break but rather a preventive measure to protect families.
On Monday, Koca said Turkey had imported medicine from China that he said was believed to help with the treatment of coronavirus patients, saying the medication was already being administered to patients in intensive care.
“As of today, 136 patients in intensive care have received the medicine,” Koca said Wednesday. He said experts and officials would examine the medicine’s impact in coming days.
Koca also said 26 patients had recovered as of Tuesday, the first figures for recovery announced in Turkey, including two senior citizens.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Alex Richardson, William Maclean and Leslie Adler)