Turkey and the World Health Organization (WHO) signed an agreement on Thursday to open an office in Istanbul for humanitarian and health emergencies.

Once opened, the office will guide efforts to meet current needs in the novel coronavirus outbreak, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at a press conference alongside WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Henri Kluge.

For his part, Kluge said the planned office would serve Europe.

Data reported since April has shown that Turkey is “turning the corner” in its battle with COVID-19, reducing case loads and deaths by over 75%, said Kluge, underlining the importance of emergency preparation and readiness, developing local diagnostic tests and strengthening testing, contact tracing and treatment.

Expressing appreciation and respect to Turkey for its solidarity in the face of COVID-19, Kluge also praised the country’s success in fighting the pandemic with low deaths among the elderly.

“We must also be ready to address high risks, especially [among the] elderly, in the Autumn, when the influenza season arrives. To sustain Turkey’s success this far with low mortality from COVID-19 among the elderly, we will need targeted interventions, such as flu vaccinations, infection prevention and control.”

Since originating in China last December, the virus has infected 12 million people across 188 countries and regions.

It has claimed over 550,000 lives worldwide, while over 6.63 million patients have recovered so far, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

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