April 17 (UPI) -- The Turkish government said Friday it will allow almost 25,000 expatriates living in nearly five dozen countries to return for Ramadan, despite restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials said several ministries will help organize the return for the Muslim holy month, which begins in a week on April 24. While the coronavirus disease began in China, its growth in Europe and the United States led to a global health emergency.
"With the orders of our president, we launched a large-scale operation to bring back about 25,000 of our citizens from 59 countries for them to spend the month of Ramadan and the holiday with their families," Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said.
Turkey has 70,000 COVID-19 cases, according to the World Health Organization. More than 1,500 have died.
Ramadan, which runs through May 23, is the most sacred period of the year for Muslims. During the month-long period, faithful fast in a time of spiritual discipline and reflection. It marks a time when Muslims believe Allah revealed the first verses of the Koran to the Islamic Prophet Mohammed.