Hundreds arrested for violation of nationwide curfew in Jordan


In a crackdown on curfew violators, Jordanian police arrested nearly 400 people on Saturday, the first day of an indefinite curfew that bans people from leaving their homes even to purchase food.

Seen to be the most strict measure to be applied nationally anywhere in the world, breaching the anti-coronavirus quarantine is punishable with up to one year in prison.

The start of the curfew was signalled at 7am on Saturday morning by air-raid sirens that sounded across the capital, Amman. By the afternoon, at least 392 people had been arrested for ignoring the measures, as reported by Jordan’s Roya TV.

All businesses in the Middle Eastern kingdom have been closed, including supermarkets and pharmacies. The government said it would announce a mechanism for people to buy food on Tuesday.

“Anyone going outside will be subjecting themselves to punishment,” the justice minister, Bassam Talhouni, told Jordan’s al-Mamlaka news channel.

The announcement, made at about 4pm on Friday, triggered a rush on bakeries and supermarkets. Many pharmacies were closed as usual on Friday. It was not immediately clear what those who required food could do, though people facing medical emergencies are permitted to go to the hospital.

Some doctors sent text messages to their patients on Saturday saying they were still available for online consultations.

The country has confirmed 85 cases of coronavirus and has been using 34 hotels to quarantine anyone who had arrived before the borders were sealed on Tuesday.

The government said the measures were necessary because an earlier request that people limit their movement was being widely flouted, with many takeaway shops remaining open and people continuing to gather and hold events.

Thousands of soldiers have been deployed in cities and on main highways. According to witnesses, armoured police vehicles patrolled the streets of cities and officers called on people to heed warnings not to leave their homes.

Lockdowns in Italy and Spain have allowed some businesses to remain open and people to walk their dogs or buy food. Jordan’s quarantine is thought to be the first national one to ban any movement for at least four days.

The country’s average International Health Regulation scores, a measure of readiness to fight an epidemic, has been assessed to be worse than Lebanon, Morocco and Sudan, though better than Syria, Yemen and the Palestinian territories.

Jordan hosts one of the largest refugee populations per capita in the world, with about 656,000 Syrians living in the country. “Those who can look after themselves are looking after themselves,” said Ahmad, who fled from the Syrian city of Hama and now lives in Mafraq. “Those who don’t have food, don’t.”

He said his own household had enough bread for three days, no vegetables but enough provisions to last a month.

The din of traffic across the capital Amman was absent on Saturday morning, replaced by the occasional bursts of ambulance sirens and calls to prayer.

After years of declines due to wars in neighbouring Iraq and Syria, Jordan’s tourism industry had enjoyed a bumper year in 2019 with record arrivals from abroad. Massive disruptions caused by the virus are expected to cost the country US$118.5m (£102m) in revenues and could put at risk at least 6,100 jobs, according to International Air Transport Association data released this week.

The Jordanian government said the country, which imports most of its food and energy, had a stockpile of commodities for several months alongside several months of gasoline and petroleum products.

The financial authorities have taken several decisions in recent days, including delaying loan payments, slashing interest rates and injecting liquidity, to help cushion the country from the economic impact of the crisis. (Source: The Guardian)