March 20, 2020 / 9:30 PM / 19 days ago

Coronavirus death toll in Turkey rises to nine, 670 confirmed cases: health minister

Workers in protective suits disinfect a street in response to the spreading coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Istanbul,Turkey March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The death toll in Turkey due to the coronavirus rose to nine, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Friday, after five elderly patients died of the highly contagious respiratory illness.

The number of confirmed cases in the country has surged since the first case was announced last week, reaching 670 on Friday. The cases have roughly doubled every day since Sunday.

Koca said 3,656 tests had been conducted in the past 24 hours, 311 of which came back positive.

Separately, the Turkish health ministry said all hospitals, including private ones, will have to admit and treat suspected patients of new coronavirus.

The ministry also declared any hospital with at least two specialists in infectious diseases, pulmonology or internal diseases as a coronavirus pandemic hospital in order to ease the burden on health institutions and personnel.

Ankara has suspended flights to 20 countries, closed schools, cafes and bars, banned mass prayers and indefinitely postponed matches in its main sports leagues.

The government also said all meetings and activities, related to science, culture and art would be postponed until the end of April to stem the spread of coronavirus. [nL8N2BD0LD]

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Chris Reese and Marguerita Choy

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