Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 October 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Jordan announces sweeping new measures to combat coronavirus

Jordanian army will guard entry and exit points of cities as government orders residents to stay home

The Jordanian army took to the streets and closed off towns on Tuesday as the government took measures, which included enacting an emergency law for the first time, to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Anti-riot tanks were stationed in front of Amman hotels, shopping malls and trade centres, while residents posted photos of armed forces patrols entering the capital and the northern city of Irbid.

The Cabinet issued a nationwide 14-day lockdown to come into effect on Wednesday morning.

It brought into force the country’s Defence Law, which establishes a state of emergency and grants wide-ranging powers to the prime minister.

King Abdullah II sealed a royal decree that gave the Prime Minister Omar Razzaz extraordinary powers under a law designed for times of war and disasters.

It enforces curfews, closes businesses and places restrictions on freedom of movement.

The law, considered essential to combat the spread of the coronavirus, also allows the government to monitor all communications and messages.

King Abdullah stressed on issuing the decree that the law was an “exception” to “provide additional tools and means to protect public health and citizens’ safety, and to improve co-ordination to confront this virus".

Mr Razzaz said on national TV that the law “will not touch your political rights, right to expression and property rights as citizens”.

He promised it would be applied in a “restricted” way.

Jordan had a jump in coronavirus cases from one on Friday to 40 on Tuesday, including airport employees and a nurse at a maternity ward in the country’s largest public hospital.

Citizens were ordered not to leave their homes except in cases of “extreme necessity,” and businesses, non-essential government services, shopping centres and banks were ordered to close.

The government announced a temporary shutdown of the private sector and government institutions, excluding crucial departments that would be determined by Mr Razzaz.

The country will also restrict movement between governorates, with the army posted at the entrances and exits of main cities.

Public and private sector employees are to be granted paid leave for 14 days, except for those who can work from home.

As the country's focuses its healthcare resources on coronavirus patients and emergencies, non-essential medical services will be halted.

The country said it would stop newspapers being printed, saying they contributed to the transmission of infection.

Malls and commercial centres will be closed but ATMs, pharmacies and general supply centres will remain open.

This includes bakeries and providers of food, water, fuel and electricity. Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned.

The Minister of Industry and Trade, Tariq Hammouri, urged people not to rush to supermarkets but many ignored the request.

“We have got to grab what we can,” said cicil engineer Abu Mohammed, 42, as he hurried out of a central Amman supermarket on Tuesday evening with a bag of seven chickens.

Mohammed Suheib, 50, a sporting goods shopkeeper, shouted: “This is how the disease spreads. Stay at home.

“We have food, we have a grocery stores on every corner. Why are people heading to bakeries and supermarkets?”

Umm Murad, 43, was worried that no one knew how long people would be stuck at home.

She carried bread, boxes of tomatoes and sacks of pasta and flour into her apartment building in West Amman.

“Quarantine camps” are to be set up at land borders and ports for Jordanians arriving from abroad.

An estimated 4,000 Jordanians and foreign travellers have been placed in quarantine since Monday before the closure of Amman’s airports and the grounding of flights on Tuesday night.

Many of them were taken by bus to Dead Sea hotels and resorts.

Prince Hussein bin Talal, 21, and Prince Mohammed bin Talal, 19, sons of King Abdullah’s cousin Prince Talal bin Mohammed, were placed in quarantine with thousands of other travellers on Tuesday, the Royal Court said.

Local news reports said the brothers were returning from the UK where they are studying.

Jordan also released hundreds of inmates held on pre-trial administrative detention from prisons.

The State Security Court released 1,500 people who were awaiting trial for national security offences to lessen congestion and prevent the spread of the virus.

On Sunday, a prison riot in Irbid left two dead after visits were banned because of coronavirus fears.

The country has also closed schools, banned daily prayers at mosques and eased the financial strain on businesses by delaying loan repayments.

Some worried that crisis will hit Jordan's thriving tourism sector, which generates about $5 billion (Dh18.36bn) a year, will worsen the economic downturn.

The government has opened a website where residents can learn more about the measures being enacted.

Updated: March 18, 2020 09:29 AM

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