Turkey will hire more medics, stop exporting face masks: minister

ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey will hire 32,000 more medical staff and stop exporting locally-made face masks so its own services can use them as the coronavirus spreads across the country, the health minister said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu speaks during a news conference for foreign media correspondents in Istanbul, Turkey, August 21, 2019. Ahmet Bolat/Pool via REUTERS

Fahrettin Koca announced Turkey had ordered rapid testing kits from China, as well as medicine that he said he been used to treat coronavirus patients – though he did not give details on the treatments.

“Masks produced in Turkey will not be exported while we need them here,” Koca told journalists in Ankara.

Turkey has confirmed 1,236 cases of the coronavirus, Koca said on Sunday – a rise of 289 from the day before – as well as 30 deaths. He said some patients had recovered, but did not provide any details.

“The cases were mostly from abroad initially, but I can say that through contacts, it has increased … I can say it has spread almost across the whole country,” the minister said.

“We have activated the rapid test kit. Today, 50,000 arrived from China. On Thursday, 300,000 additional kits will come, and we have made arrangements to use up to 1 million kits.” Some medical staff had been infected, he added.

Earlier, the Hurriyet newspaper quoted Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu as saying authorities had raided warehouses storing masks. The government would seize factories if local producers did not agree to sell the masks to the health ministry by Monday night, Soylu was quoted as saying.

“God is our witness, they have 10-12 hours or we will seize their factories tomorrow,” he added, according to the report.

Turkish producers had been exporting medical gear to a number of countries, including Iran.

But Ankara has been increasing controls on the trade to meet its own demands. Last week, it moved to limit private sales by mandating a doctor’s prescription for some masks.

Separately, Soylu was quoted as saying 10,750 people had been quarantined across the country, and anyone violating the quarantines would face fines.

Additional reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Andrew Heavens

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