By Yesim Sert Karaaslan
ANKARA (AA) - At least 88 countries have requested from Turkey to provide coronavirus protective equipment in a bid to stem the spread of the pandemic, country’s health minister said on Thursday.
In a videoconference, Fahrettin Koca and WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge discussed the latest developments on the pandemic, and also signed a two-year cooperation agreement.
"Inspiring discussion with Health Minister @drfahrettinkoca on regional & global role of @WHO/ Turkey cooperation on #COVIDー19, focus longterm #HealthSystems strengthening. We signed the Biennial Agreement 2020-2021 in line with #EPW #GPW #UnitedActionforBetterHealth," Kluge said on Twitter.
During the meeting, Kluge said that North America is now a new epicenter of COVID-19.
He said that WHO's "top priority" is to protect the healthcare workers, adding that the protective equipment such as masks and ventilators are very important for health workers for their protection.
"I'm very worried that in Europe 10% of the patients with COVID-19 are healthcare workers," he said.
Kluge thanked Turkey for helping many countries, including Italy and Spain, and said that the community should be mobilized with minimum physical contact for fighting the coronavirus.
"I would like to express my sincere appreciation and thank you, your excellency, for your international solidarity," the WHO official said.
He also stressed that "no pandemic in the history" was defeated without engaging and mobilizing the whole of society.
- Turkey's efforts applauded
Kluge also praised Turkey on sharing the latest data on coronavirus figures, as well as congratulated Turkish health minister on the electronic platform on mortality data. "This is unique. Congratulations!" he said.
"The most important in the COVID-19 is the high-level political commitment, and here, excellency, I would like to congratulate President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, who is taking a personal leadership to mobilize the whole government to respond to COVID-19. And, please, excellency, pass my personal congratulations and regards to his excellency President Erdogan," he added.
Koca, for his part, emphasized that Turkey is aware that the pandemic will be the beginning of a new era and that there will be fundamental changes in the economic, political, cultural and lifestyle aspects globally.
He stressed that by taking serious measures at the beginning of the pandemic, Turkey significantly delayed the entry of the virus into the country.
"The first case was seen in our country on March 10, that is 90 days after it started in the world. We have become one of the last countries where the pandemic entered in the European region," he said.
The minister also recalled that the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board consisting of 30 competent scientists was established and that they have been conducting daily meetings.
"Unfortunately, the countries of the European region did not take serious measures from the beginning, so it cost the whole region. I think that the member countries should review their pandemic policies," he said.
Koca went on to say that the Turkish health system is strong and the occupancy rate of the intensive care units stands at 62%, adding that his country is self-sufficient in terms of protective equipment, and the situation in the country is much better compared to Europe.
Noting that there are many requests from abroad regarding the protective material supply, Koca said: "We made efforts to meet the needs of nearly 30 countries. Most recently, Germany had a 2 million masks request. We will be providing it in the next few days. The
U.K. also made a new request. Similarly, we will provide this support to the U.K […] In this process, I would like to say that there are 88 countries requesting equipment from us."
At the end of the meeting, Koca signed the agreement and presented it to Dr. Pavel Ursu, the WHO Representative and Head of Country Office in Turkey, who also attended the meeting alongside the Turkish minister.
"Scaling up cooperation on COVID-19 and strategic dialogue for better global, regional and national health outcomes," Ursu said on Twitter.
* Writing and contribution by Jeyhun Aliyev