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Fighting Covid-19: Jordan as a role model

May 31,2020 - Last updated at May 31,2020

Jordan is a small country in the Middle East with a limited amount of resources. The current total area of Jordan is 34,495 square miles, characterised by its desert biome climate suffering from a severe water shortage. With a population of 10.5 million, Jordanian nationals of different backgrounds and religions live harmoniously with refugees (roughly 25 per cent of the population) from countries across the Middle East. Historically, the country was founded as the Emirates of East Jordan, colonised by the United Kingdo, in April 11, 1921. The country officially gained its independence on the 25th of May 1946 where the name was officially changed to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Functioning as a constitutional monarchy, the executive government and legislators of the upper senate are appointed by His Majesty King Abdullah. The legislators of the lower senate are elected by the people as the Jordanian parliament. Healthcare in Jordan is a diverse and complex system, where a majority of the population is covered by either governmental or army insurance. Jordan is well-known for its outstanding medical professional capabilities in the Middle Eastern region. This article will discuss these capabilities that have been put to the test in light of this global pandemic.

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a critical outbreak, the Ministry of Health (MOH) acted swiftly to fight the incoming pandemic in collaboration with most sectors of the healthcare system: Royal Medical Services, academic medical institutions and the private healthcare sector. Chosen hospitals were designated and prepared to deal with confirmed cases while others prepared for the isolation of patients (quarantine). The first official case was confirmed on the 2nd of March, and thus more cases began to appear in mid-March. This rapid increase caused the introduction of strict mitigation measures to close all borders and enforce mandatory two-week isolation, for all arrivals to the Amman airport on March 17. Having just arrived at the airport, my wife and I along with 5,000 other travelers were settled into 5- star hotels for a two-week quarantine at the expense of the government.

The fight against this pandemic was achieved through successful collaboration from all sectors; together they joined the National Center for Security and Crisis Management (NCSCM) and met daily to make decisions on the Jordanian response to the virus. The NCSCM was located near the Royal Court, which allowed the King to be hands-on in managing and overlooking all decisions. All borders remained closed including airports, seaports and, ground crossing gates to Jordan— the only exception being cargo flights and transport. Additionally, measures included complete closure of schools, universities and all educational institutions. Since then all teaching, working, meetings and exams have been conducted online from home.

These strict measures continued through to the end of April. Due to the pending pressure on the economic front, these restrictions have been gradually and cautiously lifted. Without a doubt, the success of the first phase of containment would not have been possible without the efforts of Jordanian Armed Forces. Collaboration between the MOH and Royal Medical Services has been highly effective and the degree of respect for the armed forces by all Jordanians has been unparalleled.

The Jordanian healthcare system can account for around 16,000 inpatient hospital beds across the country and approximately 1,600 respirators. With 10.5 million people relying on this capacity, the “herd immunity” approach would have led to the total collapse of our healthcare system. Another challenge the healthcare system faced was a shortage of PCR testing kits. However, in this hour of need, King Abdullah and Queen Rania utilised their excellent relationship with business man Jack Ma, who graciously donated 100,000 testing kits to the healthcare sector. This significantly increased the testing capacity. The up to date total accumulative number of tests that were performed exeeds180,000 tests.

The Jordanian government should be recognised for choosing to proceed with strict early lockdown measures, heavily impacting the results after two months of containment. The current total number of confirmed cases in Jordan is 730, of which 507 patients have recovered, with 9 deaths (a mortality rate of 1.23 per cent). For a country like Jordan, these figures are outstanding and should be considered a true success story. With this monumental achievement, every citizen is hopeful that this trend continues until we are considered in a state of full recovery. Although the economic, social and psychological bearing is arduous on everyone, credit goes to the government, armed forces, healthcare workers and abiding public.

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