Turkey has extended mandatory military service for its male citizens by at least one month, in a move aimed at preventing the further spread of the coronavirus during the discharge period characterised by the mass movement of people.
Following a meeting with military commanders, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement late on Tuesday that the year’s first conscription period, due to take place in April, had also been postponed.
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With a few exceptions, all Turkish men have to complete six months of military service after they turn 18. The compulsory time was reduced from 12 months when a new law came into effect in June last year.
The men affected by the ministry’s decision had started their duty in November 2019 and were due to be discharged in April.
“Despite the measures we have taken, we see that mustering out and conscription [of the military personnel] constitute a risk for our soldiers, society and Turkish Armed Forces,” Akar said.
According to the defence ministry, some 55,000 citizens were foreseen to be conscripted in April, while 66,000 others were due to complete their service.
Considering that some relatives and friends would have accompanied both groups of people, as many as 500,000 individuals might have moved between provinces during the process, Akar said in his statement.
As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Turkey was 69,392, including 1,518 deaths. A total of 5,674 people have recovered so far from COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The spread of the disease has accelerated in recent days, with more than 4,000 new cases and 100 deaths announced daily.
Meanwhile, the Turkish military has reported 223 coronavirus cases and one death to date.
Dr Esin Alavut, a specialist family practitioner based in Mersin, said that any measure that prevents travel and interaction between people is beneficial for the containment of the virus.
“It might be very hard to quarantine and monitor that many people at their brigades before their military service ends,” she told Al Jazeera.
“And self-quarantine might not be possible in many crowded homes they return to,” Alavut added.
Social media debate
The defence ministry’s announcement sparked debate on social media, with some of those currently serving and their families criticising the move.
“The decision will affect the psychology of thousands of soldiers. Ending of services and conscriptions should continue together with 14-day quarantines, regular checks of fever and other measures taken by the government,” a Twitter user said.
Others asked the government to use its own means to gradually transport soldiers back to their locales, without the involvement of families in the process.
“Our government is strong enough to deliver our soldiers to their home without the involvement of the families. Send them home. We will not allow them to go outside,” said a Twitter user named Sinem Merve Sezdi.
“I do not want to believe a state is able to shift its citizens back to their homeland from various parts of the world, but cannot transport 100,000 soldiers for conscription and end of duty,” Zafer Tansoy tweeted, referring to the government-facilitated return of Turkish citizens from abroad in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many others criticised the fact that defence ministry’s decision came hours after the government passed a bill to temporarily free some 45,000 inmates as a precaution measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in prisons.
The measure was passed on Tuesday by the parliamentary majority enjoyed by the ruling Justice and Development Party.
Turkey has gradually stepped up its measures against the pandemic after reporting its first case in mid-March.
Last week, the interior ministry imposed a two-day curfew in 31 provinces in Turkey, which is scheduled to be imposed again this weekend. The government has also ordered a general lockdown for those aged over 65 and has facilitated the free distribution of face masks.
Turkey extends gas exploration in eastern Mediterranean |NationalTribune.com
Turkey and Greece have held military exercises in the east Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for dispute over extent of their continental shelves to escalate [Greek Defence Ministry/AP] Turkey says its Oruc Reis exploration vessel will carry out seismic surveys in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean until September 12, provoking an angry response from…
Turkey and Greece have held military exercises in the east Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for dispute over extent of their continental shelves to escalate [Greek Defence Ministry/AP]
Turkey says its Oruc Reis exploration vessel will carry out seismic surveys in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean until September 12, provoking an angry response from neighbouring Greece.
The two NATO allies vehemently disagree over claims to hydrocarbon resources in the area based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands.
Both sides have held military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for the dispute to escalate.
The Turkish navy announced the extension of the Oruc Reis’s mission late on Monday – it was previously scheduled to end on September 1.
The advisory came after the European Union’s executive earlier on Monday called for dialogue with Turkey and demanded that Ankara refrain from unilateral steps that stoke tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greece’s foreign ministry called the advisory illegal and urged Turkey to ease tensions and work for stability in the region.
“Turkey continues to ignore calls for dialogue and to escalate its provocations,” the ministry said in a statement. “Greece won’t be blackmailed.”
Greece will keep seeking maritime deals with its neighbours in the region, based on international law and the law of the Sea, the ministry added.
Last week, Greece ratified an accord on maritime boundaries with Egypt, following a similar agreement signed between Turkey and Libya.
Turkey’s latest advisory referred to a specific exploration area. On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Oruc Reis would continue working for the next 90 days as it moved gradually closer to the Turkish province of Antalya.
Seismic surveys are part of preparatory work for potential hydrocarbon exploration.
Turkey has also been exploring for hydrocarbon resources in the Black Sea and discovered a 320-billion cubic metre (11.3 trillion cubic feet) gas field.
Separately, Turkey also said it will hold a military exercise off northwest Cyprus until September 11.
Last week, the EU said it was preparing to impose sanctions on Turkey – including tough economic measures – unless progress is made in reducing soaring tensions with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay slammed the EU threat as “hypocritical”.
Malaysia extends coronavirus restrictions until December 31: Live |NationalTribune.com
Russia’s coronavirus cases surpassed 980,000 after the country reported 4,829 new cases in the last 24 hours. The number of coronavirus cases in Latin America surpassed seven million, as legislators in Argentina’s capital passed a law allowing relatives to maintain a bedside vigil for patients dying of COVID-19. South Korea extended social-distancing rules in the…
Russia’s coronavirus cases surpassed 980,000 after the country reported 4,829 new cases in the last 24 hours.
The number of coronavirus cases in Latin America surpassed seven million, as legislators in Argentina’s capital passed a law allowing relatives to maintain a bedside vigil for patients dying of COVID-19.
South Korea extended social-distancing rules in the capital, Seoul, amid a triple-digit rise in cases, while India reported another record jump in daily cases. New Delhi has reported the world’s highest single-day caseload every day since August 7.
More than 24.56 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and 16 million have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 835,000 people have died.
Here are the latest updates:
Saturday, August 29
11:44 GMT – Indonesia mine resumes operations after lockdown protest
Operations have resumed at the world’s biggest gold mine in Indonesia, the company that runs it said, after workers blocked access to the site in protest to being stopped from visiting their families over virus concerns.
Struggling designers find ways to help fight COVID in Indonesia
The miners at the Grasberg complex in the country’s easternmost Papua region reached an agreement with the US-based operator, Freeport, which said it would resume bus services for workers to return home.This week more than 1,000 employees demonstrated at the mine’s main entrance over the decision to cancel bus services to the city of Timika in response to fears about the spread of coronavirus infections.Many workers had been unable to leave the site – a high-altitude open pit that is also a major copper mine – for six months.
Several buses departed from the mine late on Friday, carrying some workers who had been granted a leave of absence, said local company spokesman Kerry Yarangga.
10:08 GMT – Azerbaijan extends some coronavirus restrictions
Azerbaijan has extended some coronavirus lockdown restrictions, including the closure of its borders, until September 31 after a further rise in the number of infections, the government said.
Azerbaijan, which saw a daily increase of coronavirus cases of between 130 and 180 in the past several weeks, will reopen museums and exhibition halls from September 1, the government said.
But shopping malls will remain closed and public transport will be limited while the ban on travelling between the regions remains in place, the government said.
Azerbaijan introduced measures to stem the coronavirus on March 24 and has extended them several times.
The South Caucasus country of about 10 million people had registered 35,986 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 527 deaths as of Saturday.
09:35 GMT – German court allows Berlin protests against coronavirus curbs
A German regional court gave the go-ahead for mass demonstrations planned in Berlin against coronavirus curbs, ruling against the capital’s ban on such protests.
Police, who deployed 3,000 officers to control crowds expected to reach 20,000, have prepared for possible violence as activists opposed to the virus measures urge social media followers across Europe to arm themselves and gather in Berlin.
A police officer stands in front of protesters as they march against coronavirus-related restrictions and government policy on August 29 [Omer Messinger/Getty]
Until now Germany has managed the coronavirus crisis better than many of its European counterparts, with rigorous testing helping to hold down infections and deaths.
But new daily infections have accelerated in recent weeks, as in much of the world.
09:10 GMT – Indonesia reports record new coronavirus cases for third day
Indonesia reported its biggest rise in new coronavirus infections for a third successive day, the health ministry website showed.
Saturday’s 3,308 cases take Indonesia’s tally of infections to 169,195, while 92 new deaths carried its toll to 7,261, data on the website showed.
09:05 GMT – 107th Tour de France begins in Nice in restricted form
The 107th Tour de France begins in Nice, but even the stunning backdrop of the Cote d’Azur in southern France cannot mask the fact that this is a competition that has been changed markedly by the pandemic.
After a sharp rise in coronavirus infections in France, restrictions were intensified once again.
Riders line up before the start [Stephane Mahe/Reuters]
Only an extremely limited number of spectators will be able to see the race, with the Cote d’Azur region now a designated “red zone” – a virus hot spot.
Initially 5,000 spectators were to have been allowed to watch. Now only a few dozen have the honour of taking in the start and end of the first stage.
08:20 GMT – Ukraine reports record daily rise in coronavirus cases
Ukraine registered a record 2,481 cases of the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, officials said on Saturday, up from 2,438 the previous day.
Europe: Several nations tighten measures as COVID-19 cases rise
The increase comes after Ukraine this week imposed a temporary ban on most foreigners from entering the country until September 28 and extended lockdown measures until the end of October to contain a recent spike in cases.
The country has so far reported a total of 116,987 infections and 2,492 deaths from the virus.
08:15 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus death toll exceeds 17,000
Russia said 111 people had died from the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours, raising the official death toll to 17,025.
Russia’s coronavirus taskforce reported 4,941 new cases, bringing its nationwide tally to 985,346, the fourth largest caseload in the world.
08:10 GMT – Namibia opens airports and schools but extends overnight curfew
Namibia will lift lockdown restrictions, allowing international travel, schools to reopen and onsite alcohol consumption from September, President Hage Geingob announced, but he extended an overnight curfew as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
The southern African country of two million now has 6,906 confirmed COVID-19 cases and the disease is not yet contained — of its 65 deaths, 55 were in August alone.
But as with other southern African nations, leaders are weighing the impact of the virus against the huge economic and social damage done by lockdowns.
07:50 GMT – India records another surge in daily coronavirus cases
India reported 76,472 new coronavirus cases, slightly lower than the record-breaking numbers of the past couple of days, but extending a run that has made the country’s outbreak currently the world’s worst.
India has reported a total of 3.46 million cases during the pandemic, a tally that places it behind the United States and Brazil in terms of total caseload.
However, the South Asian country has reported higher single-day case rises than both those countries for almost two weeks.
A community health volunteer checks the temperature of a girl during a check-up campaign for the coronavirus at a slum in Mumbai [Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]
India’s death toll rose by 1,021 to 62,550, data from the federal health ministry showed, even as local media reported that some nationwide restrictions on travel could be eased from next week.
The western Indian state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai, recorded 331 fatalities, the steepest single-day increase among all states over the past two days.
06:50 GMT – Mexico records 5,824 new coronavirus cases
Mexico’s health ministry reported 5,824 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 552 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 585,738 cases and 63,146 deaths.
The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
05:50 GMT – Malaysia extends ban on foreign tourists
Malaysia has extended its pandemic movement restrictions including a ban on foreign tourists until the end of the year.
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Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a televised address that global cases have been rising and the country has seen sporadic virus clusters even though the situation was under control.
Malaysia has recorded more than 9,000 cases with 125 deaths.
04:27 GMT – Australia’s Victoria posts lowest case rise in two months
Australia’s Victoria state recorded its lowest rise in new coronavirus cases in almost two months, but authorities warned there would be no rush to lift social distancing restrictions.
State officials on Saturday reported 94 new COVID-19 infections and 18 deaths. It was the first time new daily case numbers have fallen below 100 in eight weeks, and continues a steady trajectory downward this week.
“Every day we see the strategy working is a good day but we just need a bit more time to be able to be confident that we are, in fact, defeating this and that we can open up, gradually, steadily, safely,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said at a televised news briefing.
03:52 GMT – German court gives go-ahead for protest against coronavirus curbs
A court in the German capital, Berlin, upheld an earlier decision giving the go-ahead for weekend demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions, in response to an appeal by police.
The decision is final.
Authorities had announced the ban earlier this week after an event by the same organisers at the start of the month was broken up because the participants – numbering tens of thousands – were not wearing masks or keeping the required distance from one another.
03:11 GMT – Argentina reports record cases but relaxes lockdown
Argentina logged 11,717 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its highest daily jump, but the government moved ahead with its plans to ease nationwide lockdown measures.
“Today we can take a new step by authorising meetings of up to 10 people in the open air, maintaining the distance of two metres and the use of a mask. This will be in force throughout the country,” President Alberto Fernandez said in a televised address.
Restrictions related to the pandemic in the country started on March 20. The new, more relaxed rules are scheduled to last until at least September 20.
Argentina rushes to produce COVID-19 vaccine (2:40)
02:40 GMT – Colombia football league to restart in September
Colombia’s top football league will restart play in September, sports minister Ernesto Lucena said on Friday, though games will take place without spectators.
The league was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today the good news for Colombia is that the third week of September at the latest we’ll have football,” Lucena said during President Ivan Duque’s nightly TV broadcast. “It will be closed door – we’ve said that from the beginning – there will not be capacity for the public.”
01:33 GMT – Researchers identify first case of reinfection in US
Researchers in Nevada reported what may be the first documented case of coronavirus reinfection in the United States, following similar reports earlier this week from Hong Kong and Europe.
A 25-year-old Reno man with mild COVID-19 symptoms initially was found to have the virus in April, recovered and tested negative twice, and then tested positive again in June. He was much sicker the second time, with pneumonia that required hospitalisation and oxygen treatment.
The findings have not yet been published or reviewed by other scientists, but were posted on a research site.
Obese people more likely to die from COVID-19: Study (3:48)
Scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine and the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory said they were able to show through sophisticated genetic testing that the virus associated with each instance of the Reno man’s infection represented genetically different strains.
The case “should cement in our minds that there’s no such thing … as invulnerability” to the virus, even if you’ve already had it, said Mark Pandori, director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory.
“One can get sick again and that illness can be quite severe.”
01:05 GMT – Most US states reject Trump administration’s new testing guidance
A majority of states in the United States have rejected new guidance on COVID-19 testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Reuters news agency reported, in a move public health experts said showed deepening distrust of the handling of the pandemic by the administration of US President Donald Trump.
At least 33 states continue to recommend testing people who have been exposed to COVID-19 and have no symptoms, spurning guidance published by the CDC this week that said testing may be unnecessary.
Reuters said 16 states did not immediately respond to requests for comment and North Dakota said it had not made a decision.
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, told the agency: “This is states almost all-out rebelling against the new guidelines.”
00:49 GMT – Rio de Janeiro governor suspended over alleged COVID-19 corruption
A Brazilian court temporarily removed Wilson Witzel, the governor of Rio de Janeiro, from office over alleged corruption in the purchase of medical supplies and services.
In a statement to reporters, the governor called his 180-day suspension by a federal body a politically-motivated “circus” led by a public prosecutor with ties to President Jair Bolsonaro’s family, and based on false testimony by his former health secretary.
In conjunction with the court decision, federal police arrested nine people and carried out 83 raids on associates of Witzel on Friday as part of their investigation, prosecutors said.
Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel gestures as he speaks to the media at Laranjeiras Palace in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil [Pilar Olivares/ Reuters]
00:10 – Canada extends ban on most foreign travellers
Canada is extending restrictions on travellers arriving in the country for another month to help combat the spread of COVID-19, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced on Twitter.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad will continue to be subject to strict quarantine measures, he added.
Arrivals in Canada are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning to Canada will continue to be subject to strict quarantine measures. Exemptions and other details can be found here: https://t.co/zESXaTXBNj (2/2)
— Bill Blair (@BillBlair) August 28, 2020
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
For all the key developments from yesterday, August 28, go here.
Putin extends Russia’s coronavirus nonworking period
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the extension of a nonworking period in Russia to slow the spread of the coronavirus until April 30 as cases spike. Putin announced the longer work-free period on Thursday in an address broadcast on state television, after health officials had said more time was needed. More: Russian plane takes…
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the extension of a nonworking period in Russia to slow the spread of the coronavirus until April 30 as cases spike.
Putin announced the longer work-free period on Thursday in an address broadcast on state television, after health officials had said more time was needed.
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The president first announced a week-long break from work in a rare televised address last week as part of a series of escalating measures to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Russia.
Despite a raft of measures, coronavirus cases spiked on Thursday with 771 new infections bringing the total to 3,548 and 30 deaths, according to official numbers.
“The threat remains,” Putin said. “The peak of the epidemic in the world has not yet been passed, including in our country.”
Moscow, with more than 12 million inhabitants, has seen the most cases so far.
COVID-19 in Russia: Doctors warn number of cases much higher
Muscovites have been under a strict lockdown since Monday, with residents allowed to leave their homes only for essential shopping, medical emergencies, to walk pets or to take out rubbish.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in his blog Thursday evening that these measures would be extended, but announced that a plan to issue official passes for moving around the city using quick response (QR) codes would not go ahead for now.
He said this could come up for discussion again if the virus situation worsens or more people flout rules on staying home.
From Thursday, Muscovites diagnosed with the virus whose health allows them to stay at home and quarantined family members have to consent to monitoring of their movements using satellite location capability on mobile phones.
Moscow is also using facial recognition cameras to watch for breaches of quarantine.
“We will have to live through hard times,” Sobyanin said.
The lockdown has been extended across almost all regions, and parliament has approved a coronavirus-focused package of legislation including prison terms of up to seven years for those who cause multiple deaths by flouting protective measures.
In his televised address on Thursday, Putin said that measures already taken had “managed to protect the older generation from a serious threat” and prevented an outbreak in kindergartens.
He added that it would be up to each region to decide what lockdown measures were needed “in terms of ensuring health, people’s safety and the sustainability of the economy”.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on Wednesday that Russia had set aside $18bn to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and was drafting measures to support regional economies as well as small businesses.
In his initial address to the nation last week, Putin postponed a key public vote scheduled for April 22 on constitutional reforms that would allow him to stay in power until 2036.
Lawmakers have also approved a bill allowing the government to introduce a state of emergency across the country.
The Russian leader is himself taking precautions against coronavirus, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this week, opting to carry out most of his duties remotely.
The head of Russia’s main coronavirus hospital, who gave Putin a tour of the facilities last week, announced Tuesday that he had tested positive for coronavirus, sparking speculation the president may have been infected after shaking hands with the doctor.
“Everything is fine” with Putin, Peskov said. “We are taking all the precautionary measures.”
Russia has already closed its borders and grounded all international flights to help prevent new cases.
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