Turkish plane from Iran diverted to Ankara amid coronavirus worry

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish Airlines flight from Iran to Istanbul was diverted to Ankara on Tuesday at the request of Turkey’s Health Ministry, an aviation source said, and TV broadcasters said passengers were suspected of coronavirus infection.

Seventeen passengers, including 12 from Iran’s Qom region, were suspected to have the virus, broadcaster CNN Turk reported, adding the passengers would be quarantined in Ankara.

The plane was flying from Tehran and had been scheduled to land in Istanbul, which has one of the world’s largest airports. Turkey on Sunday shut its borders with and cut flights from Iran, where the coronavirus death toll is 16.

Turkey’s Demiroren news agency broadcasted footage showing ambulances lined up beside the plane in Ankara, with several personnel wearing white protective suits on the tarmac.

Turkish Airlines said on Tuesday it extended a cancellation of flights to Iranian cities, with the exception of flights to Tehran, until March 10 due to spread of the virus there.

On Monday, the airline said it canceled flights to Mashhad, Isfahan, Tabriz and Shiraz. It also said it cut the frequency of Tehran flights to two per day.

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