Turkey has started distributing free-of-cost masks to the public in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic at a time when many European countries are struggling with the lack of medical equipment and protective gear.
The state machinery is working hand-in-hand to combat the deadly outbreak which has pushed the world into crisis mode.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this week ordered that masks will not be sold anywhere, but be distributed free-of-cost to people.
When the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Turkey, some opportunists tried to sell masks, cologne, disinfectants at extremely high prices.
However, the Trade Ministry took swift actions and launched nationwide raids.
Acting upon complaints, the ministry fined 198 firms for a total of 10 million Turkish liras (around $1.5 million).
Other steps, such as lifting tariffs on masks and respirators and subjecting them to export controls, were taken to meet domestic demand.
According to Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank, the state has sufficient capacity to produce medical masks, N95 respirators, and protective gear.
Some 8 million masks are being produced locally every day, he said.
Focus on vaccine
Also, scientists in Turkey are focusing on developing a vaccine for COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in collaboration with the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) and relevant government institutions.
A 6-million-Turkish-lira ($0.89-million) fund was approved for the local production of health equipment.
A further 220-million-lira ($32.5-million) fund was approved to cushion the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The National Education Ministry gave a go-ahead to vocational high school students to start the production of masks at a capacity of 2 million units a month. The next target is reaching 10 million masks a month.
Teachers at these schools also produced masks with 3D printers.
The Justice Ministry is making masks for prison inmates and staff through volunteers from civil society.
The Youth and Sports Ministry channelized youth leaders and sports coaches to produce masks in sports arenas.
The National Defense Ministry is producing masks at its textile facilities for the Turkish Armed Forces.
Through these steps, Turkey has not only met domestic demand, but is also helping other countries facing shortage of medical supplies.
Ankara has received requests for medical equipment from 88 countries. Until now, assistance has been sent to 30 countries, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.
Germany has placed an order for 2 million masks, he said, adding that the order will be dispatched soon.
Turkey also sent medical equipment to European epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak, Italy and Spain.
Since the virus emerged last December in China's Wuhan city, it has spread to at least 184 countries and regions.
There are more than 1.44 million confirmed cases worldwide, with over 83,000 deaths, and above 307,000 recoveries, according to the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
*Writing by Firdevs Bulut
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