ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday announced a USD 15 billion package to help the Turkish economy cope with the crisis over the new coronavirus, and urged Turks to leave their homes as little as possible.
"With a package we call 'Economic Stability Shield', we are deploying 100 billion Turkish lira (USD 15 billion) in order to reduce the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic," Erdogan said after chairing a meeting in Ankara to discuss ways to tackle the crisis.
He announced a series of measures including tax cuts for businesses and help for low-income households, including those on minimum wage and the retired. "The lowest pension will be increased to 1,500 Turkish lira (around USD 230)," Erdogan said.
The president said that another measure was to cut the value-added tax on domestic flights to one percent from 18 percent for a three-month period. Erdogan also said his government would support the country's flag-carrier Turkish Airlines, which he said one of the leading companies severely affected by the crisis after cancelled flights over the virus.
He added now was "the time to keep our contact with the outside world at a minimum. "If we apply the measures already outlined, we can keep the time of staying at home limited to three weeks," Erdogan said. The president said that the state would also hand out face masks and cologne to people above the age of 65.
Earlier the private DHA news agency said the Turkish interior ministry ordered land and rail borders to be closed with Greece and Bulgaria over the novel coronavirus. Erdogan last month ordered the frontier to be opened to allow migrants to go to Europe, but the move caused tensions in Turkey's relations with the European Union and Greece.
Turkey had already announced a series of measures in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, including travel restrictions on 20 countries and the closure of schools, universities and public spaces such as cinemas.
Turkey has so far recorded one death and 98 cases.