Jordan: Covid-19 deaths hit record as outbreak forces foreign ministry to close

The country will go into another four-day lockdown after next week's election

General view showing empty streets, during the nationwide curfew for two days, amid fears of a rising number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Amman, Jordan October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Deaths in Jordan from Covid-19 hit numbers not reported since the pandemic began, and the government said the foreign ministry was closed by a coronavirus outbreak.

On Wednesday, 62 people died – the highest number for 24 hours in the past eight months.

The health ministry also reported 4,658 more confirmed cases in the 24 hours to Wednesday night – from 4,833 on Tuesday and a record 5,877 on Sunday – taking the cumulative total to 91,234 cases.

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On Thursday, the foreign ministry announced that it would be closed to visitors to prevent the spread of the virus.

Ministry representative Dhaifallah Ali Al Fayez said that a number of staff members tested positive during periodic checks and that the buildings would be sterilised while staff isolate.

While the building is closed to visitors, staff levels will be reduced to a minimum.

Jordan initially recorded low figures at the start of the pandemic, but a sharp rise was reported in the last month and it now has the highest per capita infection and death rates of Arab states.

The government, which said there are 1,617 Covid-19 patients being treated in hospitals, has agreed to use 1,000 beds from the country's 30 private hospitals to ease pressure on its public health system.

Health Minister Nazir Obeidat said Jordan has not yet reached its peak in daily cases and blamed the spread on an unwillingness to follow social distancing and mask rules.

Medics also link the recent outbreak to travellers coming in from neighbouring Syria, coupled with mismanagement in the public health sector.

The government this week extended a night curfew and imposed financial penalties on those not wearing masks in public.

The authorities will impose a four-day nationwide lockdown next Wednesday, a day after parliamentary elections, which they hope will to avoid a longer lockdown than Jordan's aid-dependent economy can ill afford

The government intended to go ahead with the election despite criticism it could aggravate the health crisis.