By Ali Kucukgocmen and Ece Toksabay
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey will temporarily close cafes, sports and entertainment venues and is suspending mass prayers in mosques in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases rose to 47, authorities said on Monday.
Ankara also extended a flight ban to six more countries including Britain and the United Arab Emirates, bringing the total number of countries to 20, the health minister said.
“As of midnight Monday all operations of cafes, cinemas, gyms … will be suspended,” the Interior Ministry said, citing the heightened risk of passing on the virus in “public recreation areas and entertainment venues”.
Swimming pools, concert and wedding venues and some restaurants will be closed, the ministry said, and all activities and gatherings of non-governmental organizations will be postponed. It did not say how long the suspension would last.
Separately, Turkey also suspended mass prayers in mosques, the head of Turkey’s religious directorate, Ali Erbas, said, adding that the places of worship would be kept open for individual prayers.
Turkey has identified a total of 47 coronavirus cases, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Monday, with 29 recently confirmed cases, marking the highest daily rise since it announced its first case last week. No deaths have been reported.
The recent cases were directly or indirectly from the United States, Middle East and Europe, the minister said on Twitter.
Last Wednesday, Turkey became the last major economy to report an outbreak of coronavirus.
Since then, the government has ramped up measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus, including the closure of places where people gather.
Separately, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said on Monday that all non-emergency court hearings would be delayed.
The Istanbul governor’s office said on Monday that Turkish citizens who request to return from nine European countries would be brought back by midnight on March 17 on condition that they are quarantined for 14 days.
Thousands of Muslims returning to Turkey from a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia were taken into quarantine on Sunday.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Gareth Jones and Grant McCool)