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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 2 March 2021

Jordanians throw caution to the wind after movement bans ease

Health minister said social distancing was widely ignored after scrapping a Friday curfew

Jordanian Minister of Health Nazir Obeidat watches as a woman prepares to receive a dose of vaccine against the coronavirus disease at a hospital in Amman, Jordan. AFP 
Jordanian Minister of Health Nazir Obeidat watches as a woman prepares to receive a dose of vaccine against the coronavirus disease at a hospital in Amman, Jordan. AFP 

There were mass violations of coronavirus measures in Jordan last weekend after a relaxation of some rules, the country's health minister said.

On Thursday, authorities lifted most of the precautionary measures, citing what they described as a stabilisation of infection rates.

“Social distancing was not adhered to," said Health Minister Nazir Obeidat.

He said many individuals were congregating in violation of emergency laws.

A total curfew on Fridays that had been in place since November was lifted, but a curfew from midnight to 6am remains in place throughout the week.

Jordan’s King Abdullah last week instructed officials to ease coronavirus measures.

Public parks and swimming schools were allowed to reopen and the government said pupils would be able to return to school next month, in classes of reduced sizes.

Thousands of people flocked to a flea market in downtown Amman on Friday, packing tightly around stalls and in front of bakeries and juice shops. Efforts by the police to separate the crowds made little difference.

“Sadly, it is obvious that levels of mask wearing were low in most regions of the kingdom. There was also not enough commitment to wearing the mask correctly,” Mr Obeidat said.

Although the rate of increase in coronavirus infections lessened in the past weeks, Jordan is still “vulnerable to an increase in the spread of the virus”, he added.

The minister said more cases of the mutated coronavirus strain first reported in Britain had been discovered after 25 were registered last week. He did not give additional details.

It is estimated that around 2 million out of Jordan’s 10 million people have been infected with the virus.

Official testing data shows 313,000 infections and 4,317 deaths, mostly recorded since a surge in October that prompted authorities to impose a curfew in November.

Most businesses have remained open since the summer but schools have been closed since March.

Vaccinations started in Jordan last week. About 200,000 people have registered to take the vaccine, out of a 2 million government target. Jordan has a population of 10 million.

Mr Obeidat said unless there was stricter adherence to social distancing, the authorities could be forced to reimpose controls that “we all do not want”.

The government blames coronavirus for a 3 per cent contraction in the economy last year, compared with 2 per cent growth in 2019.

Finance Minister Mohammad Al Ississ told Parliament on Sunday that an official forecast of 2.5 per cent GDP growth for 2021 depended on continued relaxation of the curfew and other measures.

Updated: January 26, 2021 07:25 PM

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