Turkey's Interior Minister Soylu says Saudi Arabia kept world in dark about coronavirus

failed to tell any country, including Turkey, about the coronavirus threat amid pilgrimages to the country, leaving Turkish authorities to take measures right after confirming the first case among those returning from Mecca, when the damage had already started, said Turkey's interior minister on Thursday.

"Saudi Arabia did not inform us or the world about any cases" of the deadly virus, Süleyman Soylu told news channel A Haber.

"People returned from Umrah [lesser pilgrimage]. The Health Ministry took measures right after the first case was observed" and put the pilgrims in isolation centers, he added.

More than 15,000 people coming from abroad were put under quarantine in Turkey in 48 dormitories in 29 provinces, he said.

Soylu said the Interior Ministry has so far issued a total of 38 notices to prevent the spread of the outbreak, adding that Turkey closed its borders to many countries before the outbreak gained momentum.

"In this period, we're focusing on four different fundamental points just like the rest of the world: the healthcare system's survival, maintaining public order, ensuring social isolation, and continuing the supply chain," he said.

When asked if Turkey would announce a nationwide curfew, he said it would not do so now, but that measures could be stepped depending on the spread of the outbreak.

Soylu added that Turkey is the only country in the world where public servants directly bring services to the elderly-now under a curfew due to the outbreak-adding that 320,000 of them were extended a helping hand so they would not go out and risk their lives, as coronavirus poses a significant risk to them.

Soylu also warned the public to beware of hundreds of social media accounts-most linked to terrorist groups such as FETO, the PKK, and the DHKP-C-spreading false information and smears, saying that his ministry is taking legal steps against them to protect the public from manipulation.

In Turkey, COVID-19 has so far claimed 59 lives, while 2,433 have tested positive.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 175 countries and territories. The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.

On the asylum seekers near the Turkish-Greek borders, he said over 150,000 people have crossed into Europe since Feb. 28, and a group of 4,500 are currently residing near Turkey's Pazarkule border gate with Greece.

Late last month Turkey announced it would no longer try to block asylum seekers from getting into Europe by land, saying the EU has failed to keep its promises under a 2016 deal on migrants.

Turkey has decried excessive force used by Greek border guards, also warning that asylum seekers continue to press at Turkey's borders, but it cannot take in any more.

Turkey currently hosts over 3.6 million Syrian refugees, making it the top refugee-hosting country in the world.

Kaynak: AA_ING

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