Turkey’s lira fell on Monday, weakening to the lowest levels since a currency crisis in August 2018, as investors fretted over the country’s ability to cope with the economic and financial impact of the coronavirus, which is spreading quickly in the largest city of Istanbul.
The lira dropped to as low as 6.7568 per dollar. It traded down 0.2 percent at 6.7418 as of 10:58 a.m. local time. The decline this year now totals 12 percent, exceeding losses of 11 percent in the whole of 2019.
Investors are concerned that Turkish authorities are leaving the lira exposed to further declines as they seek to stimulate economic activity through interest rate cuts and the central bank uses up its foreign exchange reserves defending the currency.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca held a videoconference call with Istanbul health officials and senior doctors on Monday to address the impact of COVID-19 on Turkey’s largest city, where the majority of coronavirus patients are concentrated.
Koca expressed concerns about the pace at which the virus was spreading in the city of 15 million people. The minister and the doctors discussed patient conditions, intensive care occupancy rates and treatment protocols, he said in a tweet. Istanbul is the economic and financial hub of Turkey.
A total of 3,135 people tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, increasing the number of cases to 27,069. Turkey now ranks 9th globally for infections after it overtook Switzerland in recent days.
The government has introduced a 100 billion-lira ($15-billion) rescue package to help keep the economy on its feet and says the country’s health system is better placed to cope with a surge of infected people than those in Europe. Last week, it widened a lockdown from the elderly to include persons under the age of 20 and barred travel between major cities.