World Bank approves $20m scheme to help Jordan fight Covid-19

Funding for emergency response programme will support efforts to detect and prevent the spread of the pandemic

People shop in a mall amid concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread in Amman, Jordan, March 15, 2020.  REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
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The World Bank approved a $20 million (Dh73.4m) project to help Jordan deal with the health effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Covid-19 Emergency Response project, part of a $6 billion global rapid response programme approved by the lender’s directors earlier this month, will support the Ministry of Health’s efforts in detecting and preventing the spread of the pandemic, as well as strengthening public health preparedness, according to a statement.

“Like its neighbours, Jordan is affected by a pandemic whose impacts expand beyond the health sector and cause an economic slowdown and weaker growth prospects,” Saroj Kumar Jha, a regional director for the World Bank, said.

“The Government of Jordan has taken strong measures to contain and mitigate the Covid-19 outbreak. Supporting the Ministry of Health’s ability to face this health crisis is crucial to prevent a setback in the significant improvements in health outcomes Jordan has achieved over the past two decades.”

The World Bank's project will provide support to enhance case detection, testing, recording and reporting, as well as contact tracing, risk assessment and clinical care management, the statement said. It was prepared with the World Health Organisation and will be "updated periodically to identify financial requirements for several outbreak scenarios", according to the statement.

Thus far, Jordan has reported 449 cases of Covid-19 and eight deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking its spread. It was one of the first countries in the region “to take early and strict measures to contain and mitigate the spread of Covid-19,” according to the country’s Minister of Planning and International Co-operation, Dr Wissam Rabadi.

Yet the country is still likely to suffer an economic blow as a result of the measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus, particularly due to a loss of tourism revenue.

The International Monetary Fund earlier this month forecast Jordan’s GDP will decline 3.7 per cent in 2020, after growing 2 per cent last year.

London-based Capital Economics said on Tuesday that a new $1.3bn loan package from the IMF will “help to prevent large strains in the country’s weak balance sheet” but predicted a much steeper GDP decline of 6.5 per cent for the kingdom this year, given the likely hit to tourism.