Jordan lifts driving ban as it looks to normality after tight lockdown

Authorities warn that strict measures could be reimposed if residents ignored safety rules

A man wears a protective face mask as he walks along the main market in downtown after the government eased the restrictions on movement aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Amman, Jordan April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Jordanians took to the streets after a ban was lifted on driving and many businesses reopened in a rapid return to normality after a tough, 40-day curfew to stem coronavirus was lifted.

Driving was banned for most of the country's 10 million people shortly after King Abdullah II enacted an emergency law in the middle of last month, which included posting the army on city streets.

The government, which announced the easing on Monday, said it could revert to limiting movement by foot from 8am to 6pm if people did not observe social distancing rules.

Jordan lifts driving ban

Jordan lifts driving ban

"Continuing to ease measures depends on the degree of compliance, and in the event people and businesses don't abide, we will unfortunately go back to closures and tough measures," Cabinet minister Amjad Adaileh said.

The curfew brought the army to main squares of Amman and paralysed daily life and business, leaving many daily wage earners struggling without pay.

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 and fears of social unrest.

The closure of firms and disruption of tourism, a main source of foreign currency, has choked the economy.

Officials this year warned of the first contraction in growth since 1990, and a record public debt that will exceed 100 per cent of GDP.

Public buses and taxis were also allowed to resume on Wednesday in the phased reopening of thousands of businesses and industries since last week.

It has now been extended to beauty parlours, cosmetics and garment shops, dentists and malls.

Medical officials, who say that with only 451 confirmed cases and eight deaths the country can risk more to open the economy, warned that cases could spike again if people did not take heed of safety rules.

"There is an impression by some that the disease has ended and any recklessness or steering away from preventive measures will lead to the return of the disease and in a worse way," said Saad Jaber, the Jordanian Health Minister.

The government has not indicated when civil servants in most government agencies will be allowed to go back to work or when schools and universities will reopen.

The country's airport remains closed to passenger traffic and land border crossings with Syria, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia are only open for commercial traffic.