Turkey limits transport, opposition calls for ‘stay-at-home’ order over virus

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey halted inter-city trains and limited domestic flights on Saturday, as the main opposition called for a stay-at-home order after coronavirus cases jumped by a third in a day.

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask waits for a train as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Istanbul, Turkey, March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

President Tayyip Erdogan called on Friday for a “voluntary quarantine” in which Turks stay at home except for shopping or basic needs to help contain the fast-growing outbreak.

But after the number of infections jumped to 5,698, with 92 dead, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) called for a comprehensive stay-at-home order to be imposed.

“At this stage, it is evident that we need a comprehensive, wide and effective stay-at-home and quarantine,” CHP Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu said in a statement on Saturday.

“It is not possible to solve this issue with campaigns like ‘Stay Home Turkey’ and by leaving it to the will and initiative of our citizens while not providing any wage or job security and abandoning them to fate,” he said.

Erdogan announced further measures to contain the spread of the virus, halting international flights, inter-city trains and making other domestic travel subject to a governor’s approval.

Turkish Airlines (THYAO.IS) CEO Bilal Eksi said domestic flights would only operate to and from 14 big cities as of midnight Saturday. He said passengers would need to receive permission from their local governor’s office after 1400 GMT.

“As of Saturday 23:59, our domestic flights will be carried out from Istanbul Airport and Ankara Esenboga Airport,” he wrote on Twitter. Eksi added that flights would go to and from Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Samsun, Trabzon, Erzurum, Diyarbakir, Malatya, Van, Gaziantep, Konya, Adana, Antalya and Kayseri.

Pegasus Airlines (PGSUS.IS) said it had stopped all domestic flights until April 30 on orders from Turkey’s Civil Aviation General Directorate. Istanbul’s smaller Sabiha Gokcen airport said in a statement all flights would close at 1700 GMT.

In a notice detailing the travel restrictions, the Interior Ministry said all citizens must remain in the cities they reside in and could only leave with a doctor’s note, in the event of the death of a family member or if they have no accommodation.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said on Twitter on Saturday that all inter-city buses out of Istanbul will be stopped as of 1400 GMT. He said all picnics, fishing, and sports activities on seashores had been banned.

Turkey has already placed limitations on the use of public spaces, imposed a partial curfew for senior citizens, closed shops, restaurants, bars, parks and more.

The rate of increase in infections in Turkey has outstripped many other countries in the last two weeks, with 2,069 more cases in the last 24 hours, the country’s health minister said on Friday.

Kilicdaroglu said the government needed to urgently take stricter measures. “The issue has gone from a ‘Stay Home’ stage to a ‘Keep Them Home’ degree now,” he said.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Mark Potter and Ros Russell

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