Jordan's interior and justice ministers fired after breaking coronavirus rules

Jordan has been trying to curb widespread violations of precautionary measures aimed at countering the virus

epa06947661 Jordan Interior Minister Samir Mubaidin looks on during a press conference at the General directorate of Gendarmerie, in Amman, Jordan, 13 August 2018. The joint press conference was held after the police operation that took place the 11 August at night in Salt.  EPA-EFE/ANDRE PAIN
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Jordan's justice and interior ministers were sacked on Sunday after reports they were seen in public breaching social distancing rules.

The two ministers are the main officials in the Cabinet in charge of enforcing coronavirus rules, which were toughened last week after a surge in infections.

Official media said King Abdullah accepted the resignation of Bassam Al Talhouni and Samir Mubaidin, after Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh asked them to quit.

A relative of one of the ministers said the two men attended a large banquet at a restaurant in Amman last week. The guests sat close to each other without wearing masks.

King Abdullah II swears in Bassam Talhouni swears in as Minister of Justice at Al Husseiniya Palace on October 12, 2020. Courtesy Royal Hashemite Court
Bassam Talhouni, Minister of Justice, pictured on October 12, 2020. Courtesy Royal Hashemite Court

"There were other officials present and they acted as if there was no coronavirus," the relative, who did not want to be named, told The National.

Reports on two government-linked news websites quoted Dirar Al Saraira, the host, as saying that the two ministers did not stay long and sat far apart from the other guests.

The sacking of the two ministers enhances the government's effort to show its seriousness about improving the dismal observance of coronavirus precautions.

A surge in cases prompted authorities to enhance curfew measures and increase penalties last week to force more people to wear masks.

Mr Mubaidin is the second interior minister to be sacked in Jordan in less than three months.

King Abdullah appointed him after mass breaches of coronavirus curfews by tribes both celebrating and protesting against elections of the country's nominal parliament in November. Turnout was record low at less than 30 per cent.

Most of the 385,000 coronavirus infections and 4,675 deaths in Jordan were recorded since October. Doctors say at least 20 per cent of the country's 10 million population have been infected.

The government said last week that a more infectious coronavirus variant first reported in Britain had become the dominant strain of the pandemic in Jordan.

The enhanced restrictions ban on all movement on Fridays and extended a nightly curfew by two hours to run from 10pm to 6am.