Health Minister Fahrettin Koca did not give more information but anti-malarial drug chloroquine has recently been used to treat coronavirus patients in China and now in France.

Turkish authorities have ordered those aged 65 and above and those with chronic illnesses to stay at home.
Turkish authorities have ordered those aged 65 and above and those with chronic illnesses to stay at home. (AA)

Turkey's Health Minister said Monday that the country is using a drug sent from China on patients suffering from the novel coronavirus, as death toll climbed to 37 with seven more deaths from the virus. 

"From this morning we have brought a special drug used in China which is claimed to have resulted in improvements in intensive care patients, cutting their time in care from 11-12 days to four days," Fahrettin Koca told reporters.

He did not give more information on the drug but the anti-malarial drug chloroquine has recently been used to treat coronavirus patients in China as well as France.

Some researchers have said chloroquine shows great promise as a treatment, though scientists have agreed that more trials are needed to determine if the drug is really effective and safe.

Turkey's death toll from the coronavirus increased by seven to 37 on Monday as the number of confirmed cases rose by 293 to 1,529, Koca said.

Detection kits 

Koca said 50,000 rapid detection kits had arrived from China on Monday and had begun to be used, with 300,000 expected by Thursday.

The minister added that the Chinese government agreed with Turkey to share information on the novel coronavirus. 

While Koca did not detail where the positive cases were in Turkey, he said the virus had spread across the country.

He did say there were fewer than 10 cases in Turkey's Van province, which borders badly-hit Iran.

He also said some health workers had caught the coronavirus, without giving specific figures.

A further 32,000 health workers would be employed during the crisis, he told a press conference in Ankara.

Koca also said that face masks produced in Turkey "will not be exported" as the country was in need. 

There had been speculation Koca might announce a state of emergency, but he urged Turks to "announce their own state of emergency" as he insisted citizens adhere to measures already announced by Ankara.

Turkish authorities have ordered those aged 65 and above and those with chronic illnesses to stay at home, while most public spaces have been temporarily shut.

France allows chloroquine

The anti-malarial drug chloroquine can be administered in France to patients suffering from the severest forms of the coronavirus but only under strict supervision, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Monday.

Citing a ruling adopted after a meeting of France's high public health council, Veran said the drug could not be used to treat milder cases of the illness.

"The high council recommends not to use this treatment... with the exception of grave cases, hospitalised, on the basis of a decision taken by doctors and under strict surveillance," Veran told reporters.

President Donald Trump has said the US is fast-tracking chloroquine for use as a treatment but other voices have urged prudence over its effectiveness.

Source: AFP