Jordan government hints at full lockdown to stem Covid-19 surge

Official data show that 19 to 20 per cent of people who took PCR tests in Jordan this week tested positive for the virus

Angry people gather outside Al-Hussein Al Salt Hospital in Salt, Jordan on Saturday, March 13, 2021.  State media reports that Jordan’s Health Minister, Nathir Obeidat, has stepped down after at least six patients in a COVID-19 ward at the hospital near the capital Amman died due to a shortage of oxygen supplies. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
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Jordanian authorities are considering imposing a full lockdown in the country after a surge in coronavirus cases and a crackdown on demonstrations sparked by nine deaths related to the pandemic at a government hospital.

The coronavirus crisis cell of the National Centre for Security and Crisis Management has recommended a lockdown of several weeks, government spokesman Sakher Dudin told state television on Thursday.

He said the government had rented two private hospitals to help relieve coronavirus wards at public hospitals that are at full capacity.

Under an emergency law invoked in March last year, the government can “put its hands” on private hospitals, he said.

Official data shows that 19 to 20 per cent of people who took PCR tests in Jordan this week tested positive for the virus, a figure health officials said indicates a runaway contagion.

Several members of Jordan’s parliament demanded on Thursday that the authorities release dozens of people arrested during protests in several cities this week. The demonstrators were demanding the removal of the government after the deaths of the nine coronavirus patients after a the oxygen supply ran out at state hospital in the city of Al Salt.

The tragedy prompted King Abdullah to dismiss the heath minister, days after he replaced the interior and justice minister for publicly breaching virus rules they were supposed to enforce.

The authorities last week imposed new virus restrictions, halted Friday prayers and extended bans on movement and business hours.

Health authorities have reported an average of about 9,000 new cases a day in past weeks. Officials say the contagion has spread more widely than the figures suggest.

There have been more than 5,500 confirmed Covid-19 deaths so far in the country of about 10,000,000 people.