The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), which has been declared as pandemic by the World Health Organization, has led to widespread measures being taken around the world. The coronavirus, first seen in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, has been detected in almost 340,000 cases in 192 countries as of today, creating a global crisis with a death toll of over 19,000.
The number of cases and deaths started to rise rapidly after the announcement of the first case detection in Turkey with a press release made by the Minister of Health on 11 March 2020. Turkey has halted flights to countries where the disease has been seen since the virus began to appear abroad and has closed land border crossings.
As of mid-March, due to the spread of the virus in Turkey, stricter measures were taken, such as limiting the street access for people over 65 and people with chronic disease, turning student dormitories into quarantine zones, closing all public resting and entertainment places and providing takeaway services only.
Finally, with the Circular dated 22 March 2020 and numbered 2020/4 of the Presidency, flexible working methods such as remote working and alternating working has been regulated for public officials regardless of the way they are employed, provided that there is a minimum number of personnel to meet the need and not to disrupt public services.
In addition to all these measures, the Ministry of Health (“MoH”), the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency ("TMMDA”) and the Social Security Institution (“SSI”) have also taken the following measures in order to combat coronavirus:
- As of 20 March 2020, visitor entrance to the MoH building is not
- In order to fight COVID-19 outbreak, the MoH launched the Corona information website where citizens can take an online quiz to check if they might have the disease. The application which was previously offered via 184 line is now will also be available on koronaonlem.saglik.gov.tr.
- A regulation regarding the purchase of respiratory insulator masks by prescription and in return of payment from the pharmacies, has been published. Patients with a health report on the use of a filtered mask may obtain their masks from pharmacies by presenting their reports.
- Considering measures that have been taken in order to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19, it has been announced that visits to be made to physicians, dentists and pharmacists in all types of healthcare institutions/authorities, including pharmacies by product promotion representatives in relation with pharmaceutical companies’ promotional activities are suspended until a second notice. In the meantime, the promotional activities of product promotion representatives can be conducted electronically (by e-mail, video conferencing).
- Under the measures taken by the MoH due to COVID-19, temporary measures have been taken regarding the red, green and regular prescription medicines which are subject to monitoring as well as purple and orange prescription medicines in order to ease chronic patients' access to medicines.
- Considering that the COVID-19 pandemic may have an effect on clinical researches conducted in Turkey; a document has been published regarding the measures to be taken for temporary interruption or early termination of clinical research if necessary, identification of authorized body that shall apply the emergency security measures to be taken after notifying the Ethics Board of these situations, whether violations of the protocol under COVID-19 should be reported to the Ethics Board, actions necessary to keep the product stock more than usual against possible custom barriers and how to conduct Ethics Board’s meetings.
- An announcement has been made regarding the period of approval for off-labeled or NPP medicines use given by TMMDA on a patient basis which has been extended until 30 June 2020, noting that the decision on the use of the related medicines in treatment being at the initiative of physicians.
- An announcement has been made stating that TMMDA may grant temporary marketing authorization for 3 months to the companies applying in order to meet the need for sanitizer in direct contact with the human body (excluding the ones used in health institutions and organizations). The marketing authorization of the products that do not submit the results of the effectiveness test, accelerated stability test and irritation test to the authority within one month and do not meet all of the specified requirements will be cancelled.
- Since the individuals whose immune system is negatively affected due to chronic illness have an increased risk of infectious diseases, reducing the application of these individuals to healthcare providers as much as possible is found important in combating Coronavirus. In order to reduce the risk, regulations regarding the supply of medicines and medical devices have been published and these regulations will be applied until further notice.
Finally, on 23 March 2020, the Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca reported that 32,000 personnel will be hired as health providers; a local production of respirator will be launched; 50,000 rapid test kits has be imported from China and soon 300,000 more will be imported; the industry has been warned on the fact that locally produced masks shall not be exported; and a medicine that gives positive results against the virus has been imported from China which has already been given to patients in intensive care.
First published by Gün + Partners, in 25.03.2020