Coronavirus: Jordan eases restrictions and allows more businesses to open

Amman residents can now drive private vehicles as of Wednesday between 8am and 6pm

Jordanian policemen check the cars confiscated from people who violated a curfew amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Amman, Jordan April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
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Jordan on Monday eased restrictions on movement aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus and allowed more businesses to reopen to help restart the weakened economy.

Residents of the capital Amman can drive their private vehicles as of Wednesday between 8am and 6pm, in the first such move since a curfew nearly 40 days ago forced the population of 10 million to stay at home.

Public transport and taxi services will also resume with passenger restrictions and compulsory wearing of face masks and gloves, government spokesman Amjad Adailah said.

King Abdullah Il on Monday told a teleconference with governors of the importance of increasing coronavirus awareness messages to the public as businesses gradually reopened.

King Abdullah warned that failure to comply with health regulations would take Jordan “two steps back”.

He said the public must adhere to safety precautions, such as wearing gloves and masks, when going to shops.

King Abdullah stressed the importance ensuring governors were quickly advised of government measures.

Monday’s easing of measures in the capital follow a similar move last week in southern Jordan, including the Red Sea port city of Aqaba.

The government imposed the curfew shortly after King Abdullah enacted an emergency law that paralysed daily life, and ordered shops and firms to close, leaving many daily wage earners struggling without pay.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Tariq Hammouri, said barber shops, beauty parlours, dry-cleaners and cosmetics shops could now open.

Garment sellers, flower shops and furniture outlets can also resume normal work.

“We hope to ease all restrictive measures with the passing of days as the threat recedes,” Mr Hammouri said.

The government of Prime Minister Omar Al Razzaz won praise for quick moves that were some of the world’s strictest to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, but the economic effect has deepened, with growing criticism by business lobbies.

Jordan carried out more than 60,000 tests and detected 449 cases, many of whom have recovered. There have been seven deaths.

“Our duty now is to revive our economy and our health and we are able to do that,” said Saad Jaber, the Health Minister.

But government offices will remain shut until after Ramadan, which is expected to end about May 23, as will schools and universities.

The country’s airports and border crossing with its neighbours Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel are still closed to passenger traffic.

The economy has been hard hit with the tourism sector, a main source of foreign currency, especially affected by global travel disruptions.

The crisis has thrown into doubt International Monetary Fund-backed growth estimates of 2.1 per cent for 2020 and officials expect the economy to contract for the first time since 1990.

The country’s record $42 billion (Dh154.27bn) of public debt, equal to 97 per cent of GDP, is expected to exceed 100 per cent, with extra financing to cushion the effects of the crisis, officials say.