Jordan: minister says no decision yet to scrap weekend covid lockdowns

Cases continue to rise despite weekend curfews designed to slow rate of infections

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Jordanian Health Minister Nazir Obeidat on Sunday pushed back on reports that the country's weekend lockdowns would be scrapped, insisting that no final decisions had yet been made even as cases rise.

The Epidemics Committee, an advisory board to steer the government’s response to the pandemic – of which Mr Obeidat is a member – is reportedly set to advise the government to lift the two-day weekend curfews saying it was not having an impact on stemming cases. Some business groups over the weekend called for the lockdowns to be lifted, saying they unduly impact the economy.

Jordan on Sunday registered 1,505 new cases and 20 deaths, bringing the national total to 36,053 and 330.

Jordan brought back two-day weekend lockdowns on October 9 to slow the rising cases. By preventing socialising between households, the government hoped to bring the number of new cases down without putting extra strain on the economy.

Until late September, Jordan was registered between zero and 250 new cases a day. But on September 23, there were 900 new infections and since then cases have risen steadily. On October 15, Jordan recorded a high of 2,459 new cases.

Dr Monther Al Howarat, head of the emergency department at the King Hussein Cancer Centre, said on Saturday that the country’s hospitals were working at around 10 per cent capacity for Covid-19 patients.

He said that hospitals could handle up to 4,000 cases a day – well below current levels.

Dr Howarat highlighted the difficulty in preventing the spread, pointing out that when Jordan closed its borders in August, cases still rose inside the country. The only long-term solution, he said, is to find a vaccine.

Earlier this month, government spokesman Amjad Adailah told Reuters: "The government could be forced to impose a full lockdown that would paralyse daily activity and suspend businesses if a 'dangerous' spiral of cases made it difficult for health authorities to cope."

A number of schools were shut until sterilisation procedures are completed after 94 new cases were detected at 35 government schools and 3 private schools. In-school learning has been suspended from October 9 until further notice.

Last month, Jordan closed schools for two weeks, shortly after they reopened, to prevent the spread of Covid-19.