Coronavirus: Jordan launches safety measures as 7 new cases confirmed

Focus on tourist sites after five of the eight cases so far were foreigners

The Amman Citadel, an ancient Roman landmark, in Jordan. The kingdom began disinfecting tourist sites on March 15, 2020 over coronavirus fears. Reuters
The Amman Citadel, an ancient Roman landmark, in Jordan. The kingdom began disinfecting tourist sites on March 15, 2020 over coronavirus fears. Reuters

Jordan announced seven more coronavirus cases on Sunday as residents and visitors scrambled to adjust to strict new measures to limit the spread of the virus.

The Covid-19 virus was detected in four French tourists, an Iraqi and two Jordanians, the government said. One of the Jordanians had contact with an American tourist diagnosed with the virus on Saturday, while the Iraqi and other Jordanian had recently returned from the UK. The four French tourists had contracted the virus outside the kingdom. All six are being treated in a quarantined section at a government hospital and are in “stable condition”.

The new cases raise the number of confirmed infections in the kingdom to nine, with another 90 suspected cases quarantined and under observation.

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz announced on Saturday night that all passenger flights into and out of the country would be stopped from Tuesday and land crossing and sea ports would be closed. Schools, universities, gyms, cinemas and places of worship were told to remain closed and large gatherings were banned.

The flight ban, which comes at the height of Jordan’s tourism high season, sent foreign visitors rushing to arrange last-minute travel out of the kingdom, with the American, British and several European embassies issuing advisories and offering assistance.

Jordanians working abroad and the more 2 million expatriates in the kingdom faced a decision on whether to return to their families or stay at their places of work.

“My mother, wife and five children are in Egypt,” said Mohammed, a 30-year-old Egyptian employed at a restaurant in Amman. “If this lasts longer than two weeks, I will walk back home to Egypt if I have to.”

With foreign tourists accounting for five of the nine coronavirus cases detected so far, there are rising fears that the infection could spread from tourist sites, hotels and popular eateries.

Authorities on Sunday began a week-long campaign of disinfecting tourist attractions, facilities and archaeological sites and began testing employees at Dead Sea hotels and resorts who may have come in contact with infected guests.

King Abdullah, who recently returned home from a private visit abroad, expressed confidence in “citizens’ responsibility and awareness” to follow precautionary measures and praised the government’s steps.

The government's announcement triggered a late night a run on supermarkets on Saturday night, but life continued as normal in the capital on Sunday, although with less traffic and fewer people on the streets.

Only a few dozen people were seen walking down Amman's central shopping district of Jabal Hussein, some browsing at shops that remained open but mainly empty. None wore face masks.

“No one is interested in buying anything unless it is bread, rice, canned goods or sanitiser,” lamented Muataz, a 19-year-old selling jeans and sweaters on the street.

Government departments, banks and other businesses opened as usual, and several restaurants were full at lunch time.

Despite televised pleas by the minister of awqaf and Jordan council of churches for citizens to pray at homes, some people gathered to pray outside the entrances of closed mosques.

Most universities are expected to launch online learning platforms in mid-week, and televised syllabus for schoolchildren was scheduled to begin on Tuesday but the sudden closure of schools and nurseries posed a dilemma for some parents.

“If we have our children at home then they should give us all time off, otherwise we can’t manage,” said Kareem Abdullah, 32, an accountant by day and a driver for a ride-sharing app in the evenings.

Published: March 15, 2020 09:02 PM

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