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COVID-19: Serbia transports Turkish citizens home

Proof of solidarity that shows closeness of Turkey and Serbia, says Turkish Foreign Minister

Talha Ozturk   | 25.03.2020
COVID-19: Serbia transports Turkish citizens home

BELGRADE, Serbia

Serbia on Wednesday evacuated 148 Turkish nationals stranded in the country due to the measures taken to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

An aircraft from the national carrier Air Serbia, arranged by Serbian officials transported the Turkish citizens from Nikola Tesla Airport in the capital Belgrade to Istanbul free of charge.

The airport last week was shut down to all commercial flights.

The last flight from the airport was Turkish Airlines' TK1084 to Istanbul for Turkish nationals with special permission.

After more Turkish citizens requested evacuation from the Turkish Embassy, officials agreed for Wednesday's flight.

Turkey's Ambassador in Belgrade Tanju Bilgic said they made a list of citizens and arranged the transfer with Serbian officials.

"148 citizens who applied to the embassy were sent to Istanbul free of charge by Air Serbia today," said Bilgic.

"We could not return to our country. We were a little nervous. Now we are returning. We are very happy," said Ozgur Baran Oflaz, one of the passengers.

Later on, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and his Turkish counterpart Malvut Cavusoglu spoke on the phone to discuss the current situation and measures the two countries were taking to combat the pandemic.

Cavusoglu expressed his gratitude to Dacic for sending the Turkish nationals to Istanbul.

This is more proof of solidarity in difficult times that shows the closeness of our peoples and our states, Cavusoglu stressed.

The statement said that in gratitude, Turkey will send 500 test kits for the coronavirus.

Serbia has confirmed 384 COVID-19 cases so far.

The government declared a state of emergency and imposed a night curfew from 05.00 p.m. to 05.00 a.m. local time (1600-0400GMT).

The country has also shut its borders to foreigners, while schools, colleges, sports halls, and gyms have also been closed.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 172 countries and territories. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic.

The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 450,000 while the death toll is over 20,000 and more than 112,000 have recovered, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the rising number of cases, most who contract the virus suffer only mild symptoms before making a recovery.

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