Turkey struggles to contain rising coronavirus death toll

Analysts say Turkish government will struggle to handle coronavirus pandemic with its meagre stimulus package as death toll from COVID-19 exceeds 200.

ISTANBUL - More than 200 people have died from COVID-19 in Turkey, which has ramped up tests to more than 15,000 a day, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced Tuesday.

Koca shared the latest figures on Twitter, saying that 46 people had died in the last 24 hours, which raised the country's overall toll to 214.

With 2,704 more cases of the novel coronavirus, the total has reached 13,531.

"The number of tests has increased by 25.2 percent compared with yesterday," Koca said. Health officials were identifying positive cases faster and with more accuracy, he added.

Turkish officials have repeatedly urged citizens to stay home and respect social distancing rules, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan advising Turks to adopt "voluntary quarantine" conditions.

On Monday, Erdogan said 41 towns and areas across the country had been placed under quarantine, but Turkey has stopped short of declaring a nationwide lockdown.

Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu called for a partial lockdown there, sharing a graphic that showed the number of people using public transport multiplied three-fold from Sunday to Monday in the country's largest city.

"Failure to ensure social distancing poses an enormous risk at this time, when COVID-19 cases are surging in Turkey. Once again, I am calling on the government to impose a partial curfew for Istanbul," he tweeted.

Authorities have suspended international flights, shut schools and universities, banned mass prayers and imposed confinement for people over 65 years old.

Erdogan has launched a public campaign to raise money for people who are struggling because of the pandemic.

He also announced a new 600-bed hospital in Istanbul to treat COVID-19 patients.

Last week, Erdogan announced a $15 billion stimulus package, which is among the lowest in the Group of 20 countries.

The government earmarked $300 million as a one-time direct payment to help needy families (2 million families are set to receive around $150) overcome the crisis.

The Turkish leader has been criticised by the poor who are struggling to make ends meet for asking them to stay home.

Analysts also criticised Erdogan’s economic mismanagement and policies, including burning through low foreign reserves to shore up the lira.

They say Erdogan’s announcement this week of a bank account number for donations proves the Turkish government cannot handle the coronavirus pandemic with its meagre stimulus package.