King Abdullah of Jordan lends profile to combat coronavirus surge

Monarch opens field hospital as death toll from pandemic stays high

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King Abdullah of Jordan on Tuesday opened the country’s first coronavirus field hospital, underlying the gravity of the pandemic situation in the kingdom.

The opening of the makeshift hospital came on the same day authorities announced 78 more deaths, one of the highest daily tolls, bringing the number of Covid-19 deaths in the kingdom to 2,380.

State television showed King Abdullah in military fatigues and a black face mask accompanied by army officers touring the 300-bed hospital built in the province of Zarqa, next to Amman.

King Abdullah is the most senior public figure to appear in public on coronavirus-related issues.

Officials used the media repeatedly in recent weeks to urge people to abide by safety instructions amid significant disregard for social distancing and other measures.

Prime Minister Bishr Al Khasawneh said that he hopes five to six more field hospitals will be ready by the middle of next month, doubling the number of beds designated to receive coronavirus patients to 3,000.

Holding a medical mask in his hand, Mr Al Khasawneh described it as the nearest thing to a vaccine Jordan has, and is “available now and which is effective”.

“I urge citizens again to adhere to the rules of social distancing. One of the main requirements is to wear this mask, as simple as it is,” he said.

The official death toll from the coronavirus rose sharply this month to average more than 60 people a day, despite a curfew that began two weeks ago. People are not allowed on the streets between 10pm and 6am and cannot leave their homes on Friday.

The government imposed the curfew shortly after parliamentary elections, in which very few people bothered to vote.

People en masse disregarded coronavirus precautions, rioting and celebrating after election results were announced for the 130-member legislature, which holds very little power.

Jordan has a population of 10 million and the government says 193,000 people have been infected with coronavirus so far.

The Ministry of Health on Tuesday ordered private laboratories to lower the price of PCR tests from 35 dinars ($49) to 30 dinars to encourage more people to get tested for the virus.

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