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Jordan: Government Takes Steps Aimed at Curbing COVID-19 Outbreak

(Apr. 28, 2020) On April 22, 2020, the Jordanian government announced that it was easing lockdown restrictions previously put in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the southern provinces of Karak, Maan, and Tafilah. As a result, car repair, electricity, furniture, book, stationery, and printing shops in those provinces are allowed to resume work. Workers can come to work from 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.

On April 21, 2020, the minister of state for media affairs also announced that curfew hours imposed on the rest of country would be from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. starting April 25, 2020. The announcement came in the wake of a number of measures adopted by the Jordanian government over the past weeks to limit the outbreak of COVID-19. Those measures include the following:

Declaring a State of Emergency

On March 17, 2020, King Abdullah issued a royal decree authorizing Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz to declare a state of emergency, impose curfews, close businesses, and place restrictions on freedom of movement to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Jordanian authorities also ordered all citizens to stay in their homes and banned travel between provinces. According to news reports, the travel ban between provinces is still in effect. All government agencies except the health sector were likewise ordered to close, and the private sector was shut down as well.

In an extraordinary measure, the kingdom also prohibited travel to and from the country by shutting its borders with Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, and the West Bank, and suspending all incoming and outgoing flights through April 27, 2020. The government of Jordan has extended the suspension of regular commercial flights through May 11, 2020.

Conducting Random Testing

In accordance with a recommendation of the Jordanian Ministry of Health, the Jordanian authorities have been conducting random testing on a large scale to identify individuals carrying the virus.

Initiating Distance Learning Programs

The Jordanian prime minister has ordered the formation of distance learning programs for schools and universities during the suspension of the academic year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The goal of these programs is to enhance e-education as an alternative to traditional in-class education.

Imposing Curfews

In their efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, the Jordanian authorities have imposed an array of curfews over a span of four weeks. On March 25, 2020, the Kingdom of Jordan reportedly implemented one of the harshest lockdowns in the world by obliging citizens to remain at home and temporarily closing all grocery stores and pharmacies as well. The curfew, which was in effect for three days, did not allow any person to walk outside his/her house.

Later, the Jordanian authorities allowed citizens from the ages of 16 to 60 to leave their homes on foot for essential trips, such as buying groceries and medicine. However, a curfew remained in effect from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m.

On April 14, 2020, the government announced that it would impose a two-day curfew from April 16 through April 18, during which citizens were prohibited from leaving their houses. On April 24, the government imposed another 24-hour curfew to limit the interaction between citizens.

Prosecuting Citizens Violating Quarantine Period or Failing to Inform Authorities of Their Illness

The chief of public prosecution has issued instructions to indict COVID-19 patients who go outside their homes and interact with the public while they are ill. The Public Prosecution of Amman, the capital, has referred a Jordanian citizen, who was a COVID-19 patient, to the criminal court to be tried for failing to isolate himself at home during his illness and for causing others to be infected when he came into contact with them in public.

The prime minister has also issued Order No. 8 of 2020 to protect public health by obligating all Jordanian citizens and residents in the kingdom to inform the authorities immediately if they become infected with the coronavirus. Failing to do so is punishable by a term of imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of 3,000 Jordanian dinars (about US$4,230).

Instructing Citizens to Pray at Home, Not in Mosques

Dar al Ifta, the main religious institution in the kingdom, has issued instructions for citizens to pray at home, stating that the suspension of Friday prayers and all group prayers in mosques is a preventive measure to protect human lives by reducing the number of infections. Moreover, the religious institution instructed Jordanian citizens to likewise perform Taraweeh prayers, which are special prayers during the month of Ramadan (the Muslim holy month, which began on April 23) at home, not in the mosque.