The Jordanian government announced on Sunday it was placing the country on a multi-day national lockdown this month after a rise in Covid-19 cases claimed the lives of nine doctors and pushed the country’s healthcare system to the point of ‘collapse.’
Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh announced in a press conference on Sunday evening that the government would impose a full, nationwide lockdown for a four-day period starting from November 11, one day after the country’s parliamentary elections until November 15.
According to the government, the four-day period will allow authorities to expand field hospitals, increase intensive care units, strengthen infection prevention, and increase health cadre.
Starting from Monday, the government said it would extend evening curfew to 10pm to 6am, with all commercial outlets closing by 9:00pm. The government also closed all gyms and indoor sports facilities until further notice.
Wael Hajayneh, head of Jordan’s Covid-19 task force, stressed that the measures aimed to protect the lives of health cadre and strengthen hospitals which, due to the influx of COVID19 cases are around “half-capacity.”
Long hours and the heavy workload created by the pandemic are also taking a toll on doctors and nurses in understaffed hospitals, the Jordan Medical Association said.
"Even before coronavirus, we had a chronic shortage of doctors in Jordan. Coronavirus put another burden on the shoulders of doctors," association president Mohammed Tarawneh told The National, noting that kingdom's ratio of 24 doctors per 10,000 residents was among the lowest in the region.
The deceased doctors were in their 50s and 60s, and according to the JMA, each had 20-30 years of experience as specialists in fields such as pulmonology and anaesthesiology.
“The amount of interaction between doctors and Covid patients is high; exposure to the virus is concentrated at a time the long hours are affecting their emotional and physical health, weakening their immune system," Dr Tarawneh said. "We are losing physicians with decades of experience.”
The JMA called for the immediate hiring of medical school graduates and drafting doctors from the private sector into overwhelmed public hospitals. According to the association, an additional 400-600 doctors are needed including general practitioners, emergency room doctors, pulmonologists and anaesthesiologists.
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Medical staff have personal protective equipment, but their risk of infection rises as hospitals become overcrowded because people are not following health guidelines, said Wael Hajayneh, head of Jordan’s Covid-19 task force.
“We may have the best hospitals, but the continuous large influx of cases will exhaust the health sector and we will continue to have fatalities like the medical staff we have recently lost,” Dr Hajayneh warned on Jordan Television on Sunday.
Jordan reported a record 57 deaths and 3,300 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, and another 3,259 cases and 37 deaths on Sunday.
Jordan has witnessed a 600 per cent jump in Covid-19 fatalities in October, and a tenfold increase in cases, which health experts attribute to the virus becoming widespread outside the capital and increased social gatherings.
There are currently 1,540 Covid-19 patients in the country’s hospitals, taking up more than 10 per cent of hospital beds, with 274 in intensive care, according to the government. People who test positive for the coronavirus report that they are being turned away as hospitals prioritise cases needing emergency care.
Jordan opened a 570-bed field hospital in Amman last week, the first in the country, with plans to construct four more in other areas.
The government has been resistant to placing the kingdom under lockdown, with unemployment above 23 per cent and businesses and citizens still reeling from a strict lockdown earlier this year. There has also been a strong push from the government and palace to proceed with parliamentary elections on November 10, under strict health precautions; yet the wave of Covid-19 overwhelming hospitals is forcing urgent action from authorities.