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Government imposes travel curbs over coronavirus fears

Ban on travel to, from Lebanon, Syria, Spain, France, Germany; Italy ship refused entry

By Maram Kayed - Mar 10,2020 - Last updated at Mar 10,2020

AMMAN — A new set of measures to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus was announced late Tuesday, with new restrictions on air, sea and land travel, the approval of new quarantine sites other than Al Bashir Hospital and clarifications on school and university attendance on the government’s agenda.

Minister of Health Saad Jaber announced in a press conference held at the Prime Ministry a new set of protective measures, among which was the suspension of travel to and from Lebanon and Syria indefinitely, except for trucks. 

He also announced a ban on entry into the Kingdom for passengers arriving from Spain, France and Germany, and Jordanian citizens are banned from travelling to these countries. The ban will be put into effect next Monday, March 16.

All Jordanians coming from these countries, however, are allowed to enter the Kingdom given that they are subject to the Ministry of Health's preventive measures and a 14-day quarantine, according to Jaber.

Sea crossings between Jordan and Egypt have been closed, with air travel to and from Egypt reduced by 50 per cent. The Jordan River Crossing, the King Hussein Bridge and the Southern Crossing will also be closed. 

A ship arriving in Aqaba from Italy this month with 700 passengers on board was refused entry “because the length of the quarantine is not sufficient to ensure safety from the virus”, added Jaber.

Regarding land crossings, the minister said that passenger traffic with Iraq has been suspended, while the Erbil and Baghdad airports have been approved for air travel.

Several hospitals other than Al Bashir Hospital have been approved as quarantine and isolation sites, with newest being Prince Hamzah Hospital in Amman.

Director of Prince Hamzah Hospital Abdelrazzaq Khoshman, during a media tour on Tuesday, said that the new isolation department is "sanitised and equipped in accordance with the "highest standards". 

He added that it is also supplied with a "strong vacuum suction system that prevents air from leaving the department, thus preventing the virus from travelling to other departments within the hospital". 

The department was built in six days, and is specialised in severe and difficult cases and has 12 intensive care beds that can be expanded to 22 beds, according to Khoshman. 

The King Abdullah University Hospital in Irbid, the University of Jordan Hospital, the Epidemiology Hospital, the Karak Governmental Hospital and the Prince Hashem Hospital in Aqaba have been given permission to examine samples for coronavirus testing, Jaber said.

All international conferences and forums have been suspended, according to Jaber, except those held with the Prime Ministry’s prior approval. Football matches will be held without an audience, the minister added.

Earlier on Tuesday, various government entities suspended the use of fingerprint clocking in machines, with the Ministry of Social Development and the Civil Service Bureau suspending use of the devices as of Tuesday until further notice. 

Further measures will be announced by the end of the week.

Both entities announced in statements that the decision came to “reinforce protective measures taken to battle the spread of the novel coronavirus”, noting that this is “in line with the government’s directives to ensure the safety of employees”.

According to Jaber, diplomatic missions, members of international organisations, investors and residents of the Kingdom are excluded from these procedures, provided they are subject to the precautionary measures followed by the Ministry of Health.

Jaber added that in-house isolation, if chosen by any governmental or private entity for its employees, should follow the set of rules announced by the World Health Organisation.

School and university attendance has not been suspended, although Minister of State for Media Affairs Amjad Adaileh said that a meeting with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Telecommunications has been scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the possibilities of online distance learning.

On Monday, Secretary General of the Ministry of Education Nawaf Ajarmeh said in a TV interview that he “ruled out taking a decision to suspend schools”, but said that in the case that schools are suspended, the ministry will “upload within days all curricula on an electronic platform affiliated with the Ministry of Education’s website for the purposes of distance learning”.

He pointed out that the ministry has been working on developing its educational tools since before the coronavirus outbreak, and the curricula will be on the electronic platform with video clips regardless of possible school closures.

The Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Muhammad Khalayleh instructed mosque committees, in cooperation with the mosque employees, to “maintain the highest levels of cleanliness of the mosques through sterilisation, carpet cleanliness and the use of drinking glasses for one time only”.

The minister asked worshippers to bring their own prayer rug, if possible, when they attended the prayers in the mosque, and to wash their hands well with soap and water or sterilise them before going to the mosque and after leaving.

Jordan has taken several measures in the past weeks to combat the spread of the virus, among which has been the prevention of travel abroad for expatriate workers and foreign students studying in Jordan, the suspension of school trips abroad and government employees’ travel abroad.

Jordan’s only confirmed case said in an interview with Jordan TV that his new laboratory test results came back negative, and that he is waiting for his second negative test to come through in three to four days, after which he can be released from the hospital.

 

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