Jordan has imposed an unprecedented nation-wide curfew on Saturday to combat the spread of coronavirus at a moment its official confirmed number of cases approaches 100. As of Friday health officials said Jordan has 85 confirmed infections while emphasizing they expect numbers to rise rapidly.
"Jordan blew sirens at the start of a nationwide curfew on Saturday, limiting the mobility of its 10 million citizens indefinitely to combat the spread of coronavirus, witnesses and officials said," Reuters reports.
The round-the-clock ban on residents going outside started at 7am with warning sirens literally sounding across Amman. The new curfew is being widely described as the most severe measure any country has imposed on a nation-wide level thus far in the crisis.
As nations across the globe move to a militarized response, and with even the United States witnessing the rare deployment of National Guard units to city streets, such as in New York and Georgia, the government of Jordan is poised to impose perhaps the most draconian penalties for violating the newly announced measures.
The Jordanian Army announced Saturday curfew violators for all but authorized emergency personnel and vital services will face up to a year in jail. Thousands of soldiers have already been deployed to city streets and highways, especially in the sprawling capital of Amman.
"Anyone going outside will be subjecting themselves to punishment," Justice Minister Bassam Talhouni said in an Arabic broadcast. Already at least 400 were arrested Saturday. "Nearly 400 people have been arrested in Jordan for violating an indefinite curfew introduced on Saturday that bans people from leaving their homes even to purchase food," The Guardian reports.
Watch: Sirens blared at the start of a curfew across #Jordan earlier in the day, limiting the mobility of 10 million citizens indefinitely to combat the spread of #COVID_19 #coronavirus.— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) March 21, 2020
The Jordanian army says 392 violations have been recorded so far.https://t.co/jVDgOTbYXO pic.twitter.com/OeyAReyU7q
The stringent measures immediately resulted in the following scene, as Reuters describes:
Armored police vehicles roamed the streets of main cities, calling on people to heed warnings not to leave their homes, witnesses said.
Streets across the capital and main cities were deserted, with shops shuttered as police patrolled neighborhoods and the army manned checkpoints, witnesses said.
Amman officials say they had to take drastic measures due to the "recklessness" of some elements among the population who refuse to take the pandemic threat seriously.
“Unfortunately we have seen recklessness in scenes of shopping and moving around in the streets. These pose a grave danger to our efforts to contain the epidemic,” Amjad Adailah, a cabinet minister and government spokesman said.
Similar but arguably less draconian measures have been deployed in some communities and cities in neighboring Israel and the West Bank.
Also, Syria to the north is presenting an increasingly worrisome situation: the Assad government has ordered the closure of all schools, restaurants, theaters and public places, and has even sent many government workers home as of Saturday. Yet authorities in Damascus are still officially reporting zero cases. However, it could also be the case they acted quickly enough, with WHO officials looking on and administering tests, amid all but the Lebanese border being for years shutdown due to war.
The potential for an outbreak inside squalid and over-crowded refugee camps in the region is also alarming international health officials. The WHO is reportedly attempting to set up urgent testing inside camps along the Syrian-Turkish border, after a handful of cases appeared in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Iraq.