Coronavirus claims its first two victims from the British Turkish community

A 92-year-old Turkish Cypriot woman receiving treatment at Farnborough Hospital and a 55-year-old Turkish man in North Middlesex Hospital have died after contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19). Both had underlying medical conditions.

Mother-of-five Elmaziye Kanlı had been ill for some time. Originally from Mağusa / Famagusta, she passed away in hospital on Tuesday, 17 March, a month after turning 92.

Although the cause of death has not yet been officially released, Erkin Guney, head of the UK Turkish Islamic Trust (UKTIT) and Shacklewell Lane Mosque, and who is related to Mrs Kanlı through his sister’s marriage, told T-VINE Magazine she had lost the fight for life after becoming infected with COVID-19. It is not known how she came into contact with the virus.

Mr Guney, who had known Mrs Kanlı since his childhood, said she was a “wonderful lady”, who would be “sorely missed.”

On Wednesday, 18 March, Hayri Ergönül succumbed to the same infection. According to media reports, both Mr Ergönül and his wife had been admitted to their local hospital in Edmonton. While his wife recovered and was discharged, Mr Ergönül remained in intensive care where his condition deteriorated.

Born in Turkey’s Gözpınar village, in Afşin, Kahramanmaraş, in 1966, Mr Ergönül had been in Britain for many years. A chronic asthma sufferer, he was also recently diagnosed with bronchitis.

His death was confirmed by the British Alevi Federation on its Facebook page yesterday:

“Our dear friend Hayri Ergönül has left this life and returned to God. We lost our friend at a young age because the coronavirus triggered asthma.”

The Alevi Federation stated Mr Ergönül’s family had been among the Alevi victims of the 1978 Maraş Massacre, perpetrated by Turkey’s fascist Grey Wolves and religious extremists, which left 120 dead.

The Federation added that Mr Ergönül was, “Leaving behind a painful life, he has exited this world,” and extended their deepest condolences to his family and the British Alevi community.

UK infection rates and deaths rise again

The two deaths, just 24 hours apart, has left the British Turkish community in shock. The news comes as the UK increases its efforts to contain the spread of the high contagious disease.

To date, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 137 people in Britain – the vast majority from England.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the number of virus-related deaths had doubled from three to six. Two people have died in Wales, while Northern Ireland reported the first patient to have died after testing positive for coronavirus.

As of Wednesday, at least 2,626 people in the UK have contracted the virus. It’s thought the actual number is far higher.

The rising infection rates and fatalities has prompted the Government to introduce increasingly strict measures to limit the coronavirus outbreak. Among these, UK schools will close to all pupils except vulnerable children and those of key workers. Schools in England, Wales and Scotland will close from Friday and Northern Ireland schools will close from Monday.