ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - All 132 passengers and crew on a Turkish Airlines plane from Tehran will be quarantined for 14 days and tested for possible coronavirus infection at a hospital in Ankara, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Tuesday.
The flight from Tehran was carrying Turkish nationals home after Ankara closed its border with Iran this weekend following a coronavirus outbreak there, Koca said in a written statement.
An aviation source said earlier the flight was originally due to land at Istanbul, one of the world’s largest airports, but was diverted to Ankara. The Health Ministry denied this.
“A special flight was set up for Turkish citizens wishing to return to our country from Iran. Turkish citizens who come to our country from Iran with this flight will be kept under a quarantine for 14 days,” Koca said.
On Tuesday, the death toll from the coronavirus in Iran rose to 16. Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk said earlier 17 passengers, including 12 from Iran’s Qom region, were suspected to have the virus.
Turkey’s Demiroren news agency broadcast footage showing ambulances lined up beside the plane after landing in Ankara, with several personnel wearing white protective suits on the tarmac.
Turkish Airlines said on Tuesday it had extended a cancellation of flights to Iranian cities, with the exception of Tehran, until March 10.
On Monday, the airline said it canceled flights to Mashhad, Isfahan, Tabriz and Shiraz. It also said it cut the frequency of Tehran flights to two per day.
More than 80,000 people have been infected in China since coronavirus outbreak began late last year China’s death toll was 2,663 by the end of Monday. The outbreak has spread to about 29 countries and territories.
Turkish Airlines (THYAO.IS) shares traded down 2% while main bluechip index was down 0.3% at 1057 GMT.
Additioanl reporting by Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Nick Macfie