Any hospital with at least two specialists in infections, pulmonology, internal diseases and clinical microbiology will serve as a coronavirus pandemic hospital, a Health Ministry circular ordered late Friday.
Private health institutions will admit patients with COVID-19, the Ministry added.
According to the order, there will be a coronavirus clinic and intensive care unit for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in every pandemic hospital.
The death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is now up to nine in Turkey, while the number of cases reached 670, almost doubling every day since Sunday. No comprehensive lockdown is in place, but escalating measures coupled with public compliance of health advisories have left a visible mark on daily life. Streets are empty and famous landmarks and town squares, once swarming with crowds, are now eerily devoid of life.
The Turkish presidency issued a decree earlier on the same day, postponing all science, culture and art events until the end of April in another bid to curb the spread of the virus. Based on current trends, infections will continue to multiply.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a compassionate speech earlier this week, urged citizens to stay home for at least three weeks but stopped short of declaring a curfew. Most people have heeded the call, as a dwindling number of people are visible outside.
Along with the government, municipalities have come up with new ways to tackle the crisis and protect citizens. Ekrem İmamoğlu, mayor of Istanbul, the country’s most crowded city, announced on Friday a new set of measures. Open marketplaces, an inseparable part of every neighborhood in the city but also a potential virus sanctuary due to the crowds they attract, are among the municipality’s priorities. İmamoğlu said marketplaces will be reduced in size and only food will be allowed to be sold. He said they would set up “disinfection stations” across the city to provide disinfection services for taxis and minibusses and will suspend around-the-clock mass transit services. He said the number of mass transit services will be reduced outside rush hours and called on senior citizens to avoid public transportation unless necessary. Mass transit vehicles, especially overcrowded metrobuses, pose a risk for chronically ill people in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan announced on Friday that sellers in marketplaces will be required to keep a distance between stalls and customers will not be allowed to pick up vegetables and fruits from the stalls. This new rule will likely annoy Turkish customers who have a long-held tradition of touching the produce with their bare hands to select the freshest, most edible among them.