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Turkey evicts students to quarantine thousands of returning pilgrims amid coronavirus pandemic

Turkey has reported 18 confirmed Covid-19 cases [AFP]

Date of publication: 16 March, 2020

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Turkish government have ramped up measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, announcing the closure of bars, nightclubs and other establishments selling alcohol.
Thousands of Turkish students were abruptly kicked out of their dormitories over the weekend as authorities moved to quarantine pilgrims arriving from Saudi Arabia amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Turkish citizens who had undertaken the voluntary Umrah pilgrimage were shipped from airports to university student dorms in the capital Ankara and the central provinces of Kayseri and Konya late on Saturday.

Thousands of students returned home in droves when Ankara last week announced a three-week closure of universities.

Some students who chose to stay in their university residences were given no warning ahead of the quarantine measures and were abruptly told to leave the dorms in Ankara, Kayseri and Konya at midnight, local media reported.

Five student dormitories with a capacity for more than 10,000 people were cleared out to make way for the pilgrims, the Youth and Sports Ministry said.

Read more: Should Muslim Friday prayers be cancelled to fight coronavirus?

It is unclear how many returning pilgrims have been accomodated but the head of Turkey's religious directorate, Ali Erbas, said on Friday that 21,000 were due to return to the country.

While students voiced complaints over their sudden eviction, returning pilgrims grumbled over being placed in "dirty" dorms.


"The place is dirty. There are no nurses or doctors here. This place is a barn," one told opposition lawmaker Yildirim Kaya.

The measures to quarantine returning pilgrims came after a citizen returning from the Umrah pilgrimage became Turkey's sixth positive Covid-19 case.

Turkey has 18 confirmed coronavirus cases, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia's health ministry said on Sunday that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country had risen to 118.

Earlier this month, Saudi authorities implemented a rare freeze on the optional pilgrimage to Mecca, expanding earlier measures that applied only to foreigners.

On Sunday, the Turkish government ramped up measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, announcing the closure of bars, nightclubs and other establishments selling alcohol.

Although the Turkish public appears to have welcomed the measures, some have complained that the socially conservative government has not yet taken the decision to close mosques, where thousands of worshippers gather for communal prayers five times a day.

On Monday, authorities said another three student dormitories in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, would be allocated to quarantine travellers arriving from Europe.

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