Turkey's decision not to halt flights from coronavirus hotspot New York stirs debate

Despite New York City being currently one of the world's worst coronavirus hotspots, Turkey's national flag carrier Turkish Airlines has not suspended its flights from the U.S. city. A U.S.-based Turkish academic has called on the authorities to tackle this issue and to find those who arrived from New York City to Istanbul in the last two weeks to place them under quarantine.

Hacı Bişkin / Duvar

Turkey's decision not to suspend flights from New York City has caused a criticism among the public, as the intensity of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City is known to be the most concentrated in the entire United States.

Turkey's national flag carrier Turkish Airlines has halted flights with all international destinations except on five routes to New York City, Washington, Hong Kong, Moscow and Addis Ababa.

Turkish Airlines serves one or two flights every day to New York City and there is no clear information as to whether arriving passengers from the U.S. city are placed under a 14-day quarantine or not.

“Currently there are one or two flights per day [on the Istanbul-New York City route]. But, changes might occur once you buy the ticket. You need to follow up on that,” a Turkish Airlines official told Gazete Duvar.

New York City has declared a state of emergency after several cases had been confirmed in the city, and officials have undertaken sweeping changes regarding its businesses and social life.

Emrah Altındiş, a Turkish assistant professor at Boston College and an adjunct faculty at Harvard Medical School, called on Turkish authorities to immediately halt New York – Istanbul flights. He wrote on Twitter that New York had so far confirmed over 25,000 coronavirus cases and had a death toll of 218.

“I can fly from New York to Istanbul today if I wanted to and there is no quarantine!” Altındiş wrote on Twitter, recalling that even the White House urged U.S. citizens who recently traveled from the New York metro area to self-quarantine for 14 days to stop the spread of the virus.

“The reason why I am emphasizing the flights from New York so much is because New York city center is very crowded and dense. The total number of cases in New York has exceeded 25,000 as of today. There are 24,000 confirmed cases in Iran, 22,000 in France and 9,000 in Korea. The flights [from New York] should be stopped immediately and those who arrived [in Istanbul] in the last two weeks should be located immediately!” he wrote.

Altındiş told previously told Gazete Duvar columnist İrfan Aktan that a “tsunami” was headed towards Turkey. Altındiş said the virus is rarely detectable, which it makes it highly contagious and that Turkey was not taking the necessary precautions to slow its spread.