Turkey says low risk of second outbreak, opens to some medical tourism

FILE PHOTO: Tourists wearing protective face masks, due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) concerns, stroll at Sultanahmet square in Istanbul, Turkey, March 17, 2020. Byzantine-era monument of Hagia Sophia is seen in the background. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan/File Photo

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey does not risk a second wave of infections from the new coronavirus at the moment and it is preparing to start controlled “medical tourism” with 31 countries as of Wednesday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

“If we continue to abide by the rules of social distancing, wearing a mask and a limited social life, then we don’t see a risk of second wave,” Koca told a press conference on Wednesday.

“Like the rest of the world, we are also monitoring actively such a risk around September or October. But we are in a position to take necessary measures in the case of a second wave,” he said.

Turkey’s daily number of new COVID-19 cases has fallen to around 1,000 from some 4,500 last month. Its official coronavirus death toll stands at 4,199, with more than 110,000 people having recovered.

Koca said Turkey was starting medical tourism season with 31 countries where the risk of pandemic is lower, despite a lack of international flights.

“If necessary, and if there is demand, we will organise charter flights for medical tourism,” Koca said, adding that the tourists would be tested for the virus upon arrival.

Travel restrictions for senior citizens were to be eased in the coming days, the minister said.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ezgi Erkoyun; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer