Jordan Eases Lock-down After The Crisis Caused By The Strict Curfew

Jordan is one of the countries that has adopted strict measures to prevent the spreading of COVID-19. The detection of their first case on March 14 followed by an indefinite lock-down imposed on March 21 led to chaos nation-wide. Following this, Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz announced that they will be easing their measures. According to the Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, starting from March 25, small shops will be permitted to open and large markets will start delivery services. While people are now allowed to leave their houses for essential trips, such as going to bakeries, pharmacies and grocery stores, the 6:00 P.M. to 10:00 A.M. curfew will be remaining. This curfew was adopted after the declaration of state of emergency, when King Abdullah II decreed the activation of a national defence law, giving the Prime Minister powers to impose a state of emergency and suspend civil laws. Alongside curfew, Jordan’s government had also monopolized the delivery of food to prevent people from leaving their houses during the lock-down. This did not go according to plan with citizens surrounding government food trucks and the emergency phone line crashing due to the increase in calls.

These strict measures, coupled with fear from the pandemic caused widespread chaos among the public. Hassan Karim, a clothing store employee said in an interview with CNN; “Being under lock-down feels like you’re always on edge, because we’re used to going out and seeing people… Our morale is a bit low, but we have to acclimate until the situation gets better.” Joe Stork, the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division talked about his experience as well. While congratulating the government for taking strong measures to stabilize the spread, he also expressed his concerns on the lack of clarity and “mixed messaging that caused some anxiety among people.” The Minister of State for Media Affairs, Amjad Adaileh said; “We apologize for taking such a decision, but the aim of this is to protect you and preserve your safety and your health.” He also explained the reasons of the previous strict lock-down by saying that “people did not respect directives.” Prime Minister Razzaz said “I understand the worry and anxiety.” He also talked about how these unusual times and measures “reflects negatively and psychologically” on people. But he still stressed the importance of social distancing and warned the people to follow the warnings, stating; “either there is discipline or we will close shops where we see congestion.”

Every country is adopting different measures as we go through these difficult times. I applaud the Jordanian government for willing to take strict measures to prevent the spread. Right now, in every country the major problem is of how to control and limit the movement of the people. We have examples in Italy and Spain of how the virus can spread if the public does not acknowledge the intensity of this pandemic. This is what seems to be the concern of Jordanian officials. These measures seem to be a result of good intentions, but the uncertainty and lack of clarification led to crisis. The government’s decision to ease the lock-down shows how the Jordanian government genuinely cares about their people. They could have held on to their strict rules regardless of the panic it caused to the people. But they decided to listen to people’s concerns and modify their methods accordingly.

Jordan had their first coronavirus case on March 14 and began with shutting land and sea borders and closing airports and universities. All incoming travelers were placed into quarantine and the entrances to cities were controlled by the army. As the number of cases started to increase, the government declared a state of emergency and adopted an army-imposed curfew. All shops and pharmacies were closed, and curfew went into effect with jail time punishment if violated. According to Jordan’s Public Security Directorate, 1,657 people were arrested for violating curfew and are now facing up to a year in prison. The curfew included a lock-down of businesses and any commercial activities. To prevent panic, the government announced that they will be distributing bread and water to households each day. However, this was not enough to prevent panic, with some people surrounding government food trucks and locking phone-lines after complaints of having no food left at home.

Jordan acted quickly to control the spread of the coronavirus and is still working to secure the health of its population. Minister Adaileh expressed that they will continue to do so, saying “There are no perfect solutions during these difficult times, so it is natural that there will be mistakes and violations and we will resolve it.” He continued; “Everyone, including citizens, should assume their responsibility in this regard.” While fighting against this virus governments and citizens should work together and show solidarity. While the Jordanian government has shown sensitivity to its people’s worries, the citizens should follow the directives given by the government as well as by the World Health Organization.