Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the government will reopen businesses and publish guidance to ensure coronavirus remains contained when they open next week.
Turkey has completed the first phase of its struggle against the novel coronavirus and entered a new phase that aims to eliminate the disease, reopen businesses and set new social behaviour guidelines to prevent any resurgence of the outbreak, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday.
The results of efforts to counter the virus, as well as success in diagnosis and treatment in the country, prove that Turkey has the pandemic under control, Koca told reporters after a Science Board meeting.
"The coronavirus outbreak is currently under control in Turkey... We aim to eliminate coronavirus in the second phase. We are shifting towards a new way of life," the health minister said.
He also said the number of ICU patients and those on ventilators continued to drop, with a total of 78,202 patients in Turkey having recovered so far from the coronavirus.
The government will publish guidance for businesses to ensure coronavirus remains contained when they open next week, Koca said, adding it will also increase testing capacity and continue contact tracing efforts.
Turks should wear masks and be mindful of social distance in public, Koca added.
The health minister said Turkey will increase its testing capacity, currently running between 30,000 and 40,000 most days, and continue contact tracing efforts which officials credit in part with getting control over the outbreak.
He also said that Turkey will conduct sample PCR and antibody Covid-19 tests for 150,000 people next week, adding the country will soon also start using antiviral drug Remdesivir to treat patients.
The number of cases rose by 2,253 on Wednesday, less than half the level at the peak of the outbreak in mid-April. But it was the second day showing a slight increase in confirmed cases, highlighting a continued threat of further spread.
Turkey's total number of confirmed cases, at more than 131,000, is the highest outside the United States, Western Europe, and Russia, but its death toll of 3,584 is relatively low per capita compared to most of those countries.
A total of 78,202 people have so far recovered from the coronavirus, which causes respiratory disease Covid-19.
Turkey is among of top ten countries with the highest number of Covid-19 cases but has kept the lowest death rate compared to the toll in Western Europe and the United States, and the government is now looking to gradually reopen the economy.
On Monday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was starting to reduce coronavirus containment measures, lifting inter-city travel restrictions in seven provinces and easing a curfew imposed on the elderly and people less than 20 years old.
Shopping malls, barber shops and some stores will be allowed to open on May 11 provided they abide by so-called normalisation rules, and universities would return to their academic calendar on June 15, he said.
All main Turkish automotive factories will resume operations as of May 11, Industry Minister Mustafa Varank said on Tuesday.
Covid-19 cases have been reported in 187 countries and regions since it emerged in China last December, with the US and Europe now the hardest-hit areas.
The pandemic has killed over 258,100 worldwide, with total infections over 3.68 million, while recoveries surpassed 1.21 million, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.