Turkey and the World Health Organization (WHO) signed an agreement on Thursday to open an office in the metropolis of Istanbul for humanitarian and health emergencies.
Once opened, the UN office will guide efforts to meet current needs in the novel coronavirus outbreak, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told a press conference alongside Hans Henri Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, in the capital Ankara.
“We expect WHO to become a more proactive structure in the new era, especially in emergencies,” Koca said.
He urged a “period of global consultation, in which WHO is reevaluated with its truths, mistakes, successes, and failures.”
For his part, Kluge said the office in Turkey’s largest city would help serve Europe.
“Turkey is my first official trip since COVID-19 travel restriction measures started to be eased,” he said.
“You showed humanitarian spirit by providing COVID-19 testing, treatment, and care for all, including refugees and migrants,” he said, adding that Turkey exemplified global unity by sharing protective equipment with over 130 countries and five international organizations.
On Turkey’s success in the fight against COVID-19, Kluge attributed this to factors such as wise political leadership and policies, implementation, and speed.
“Turkey was quick. We saw the speed that the country replied to European countries made a huge difference,” he added.
Data since April shows Turkey “turning the corner” in its battle with COVID-19, reducing caseloads and deaths by over 75%, said Kluge, stressing the importance of emergency preparation and readiness, developing local diagnostic tests, and strengthening testing, contact tracing, and treatment.
Voicing appreciation and respect for Turkey’s solidarity in the face of COVID-19, Kluge also praised the country’s success in fighting the pandemic with low deaths among the elderly.
“We must also be ready to address high risks, especially [among the] elderly, in the autumn, when the influenza season arrives. To sustain Turkey’s success this far with low mortality from COVID-19 among the elderly, we will need targeted interventions, such as flu vaccinations, infection prevention, and control.”
Authorities, partners, communities, academia, the government, and the entire society have contributed to Turkey’s success in fending off the “initial peaks,” he said, adding that people must understand that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
Kluge also said he told German authorities that the current conditions in Turkey would allow a reopening of borders to the country.
Since originating in China last December, the virus has infected over 12.11 million people across 188 countries and regions.
It has claimed over 551,000 lives worldwide, while over 6.64 million patients have recovered so far, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.