Jordan ‘number one in region’ for COVID deaths and cases

Jordan tops MENA region for COVID deaths and cases: Former health minister
3 min read
08 December, 2021
Jordan is number one in the MENA region for COVID-19 deaths and cases per 100,000 people, a former minister revealed as the country enters the "third wave" of infections.
Jordanian officials have so far resisted imposing new stringent measures to combat the spread of the virus. [Getty]

Beirut - Jordan is number one in the region for COVID-19 deaths and cases per 100,000 people, former Jordanian Minister of Health Saad Kharabsheh revealed on Tuesday in a televised interview.

In recent weeks, Jordan has entered what local health officials are calling the “third wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 6,000 cases were reported on Tuesday, up from 2,000 just a month prior. Worryingly, the test positivity rate is over 10 percent across the country. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that any positivity rate over 5 percent indicates severe under-testing in a population, suggesting the number of people who actually have COVID in Jordan is greater than figures indicate.

Occupancy rates in hospitals in the country have been steadily rising over the last month. Over 50 percent of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in the north are occupied, compared to 41 percent in central Jordan, where the capital city of Amman is located.

The former health minister, Saad Kharabsheh, said that this wave would be “more severe” than the previous ones. He said that the fact that most, if not all, sectors of the economy would stay open meant that the newest outbreak was likely to spread quicker.

The Jordanian government has been reluctant to impose new precautionary measures to slow the latest COVID wave. Previous lockdowns have severely impacted Jordan’s economy and the morale of its population.

Officials have stressed that a nationwide lockdown is not currently being considered and that distance learning is not on the table. Thus far officials have canceled concerts and large parties in the nation’s capital, as well as reimposed PCR tests on all new arrivals in the country.

The lack of governmental measures to combat the latest wave of COVID has worried some Jordanians. A teacher at a private school in Amman told The New Arab that they wished schools would adopt distance learning once again.

“Once students test positive they go home, but they have already mixed with other students and teachers. Everyone is very stressed and anxious – we feel like it’s just about work and not about the safety of the teachers,” they said, under the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal at work.

“No matter how many times we tell the children to wear masks, they can’t stick to it. And there are some families that even tell their children not to wear masks,” they said.

The teacher added that the work load has significantly increased on teachers because staff frequently have to self-isolate after coming into contact with positive students.

Jordan gained international attention for the severity of its lockdowns in the early stages of the pandemic, when citizens could not leave their homes and buses were used to distribute bread, water and cigarettes.

Jordan is also highly dependent on tourism – about a fifth of its GDP comes from this sector – and was hurt by the months-long entry ban on incoming visitors in 2020.

As a result of these lockdowns, GDP contracted by 3 percent in 2020 and unemployment soared to a quarter of the labor force in 2021. Youth unemployment currently stands at over 50 percent.

Just over a third of the population has received both doses of the COVID vaccine, with the government urging its citizens to take a third booster dose. As of the time of publishing, Jordan has not detected any cases of the new Omicron variant which has prompted global concern over its infectious potential.