By Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu
ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan called on Friday for a “voluntary quarantine” in which Turks stay at home except for shopping or basic needs to stem a surge of coronavirus cases, which jumped by a third in a day to 5,698 with 92 dead.
“If we don’t want these measures to reach a further stage, we must abide by the voluntary quarantine rules verbatim. What does this voluntary quarantine mean? It means do not leave your house,” Erdogan told a press conference late on Friday.
The rate of infections in Turkey has outstripped most other countries in the last two weeks with 2,069 more cases in the last 24 hours, the country’s health minister said earlier on Friday in calling for wider measures to contain the outbreak.
Erdogan also announced an end to all international flights, and said pandemic councils will be formed in Turkey’s 30 biggest cities to take additional precautions if necessary.
“By taking care of social distancing at home and at work, by not using public transportation unless necessary, by not leaving the house apart from fundamental shopping needs, by taking care of our cleanliness, it is mandatory that we increase the effectiveness of these measures,” he added.
Turkey’s government says it is not disclosing the location of cases to prevent the risk of increasing transmission rates by encouraging people to move from areas with high rates to places where there are no or few cases.
Ramping up measures against the outbreak, Turkey also limited intercity bus travel and banned walks and fishing along the seashore and beaches, as well as jogging in forests and parks on weekends.
Local governors could decide to extend the decision to week days, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told an interview on NTV news channel.
One town and four villages in Turkey’s Black Sea province of Rize have been quarantined over the coronavirus outbreak, the local mayor said on Friday, marking the country’s first case of a lockdown.
(Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Toby Chopra)