Jordan Keeps Coronavirus In Check With One Of The World's Strictest Lockdowns : Coronavirus Updates The Middle Eastern kingdom has forced most people to stay indoors, banned driving and even temporarily shut down grocery stores and pharmacies.

Jordan Keeps Coronavirus In Check With One Of The World's Strictest Lockdowns

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One of the strictest lockdowns in the world has been in Jordan. To avoid overloading the health care system, Jordan banned the entire country from even going for a walk. And police arrested those who disobeyed. NPR's Jane Arraf has more from Amman.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: This is the sound of a bread bus, an actual city bus going through neighborhoods in Jordan with plastic bags of flatbread taking up the seats instead of passengers. Jordan's curfew closed bakeries, grocery stores and even pharmacies. Security forces were deployed in the streets to make sure people didn't leave their homes, not even for a walk or to let pets out. It eased it a little Wednesday by allowing small grocery stores to open - and then only if they could walk there and if they were between the ages of 16 and 60. But apart from that, almost everyone is stuck indoors. A Jordanian infectious disease specialist, Dr. Najwa Khuri-Bulos, explains why it was important to act quickly.

NAJWA KHURI-BULOS: There is a window period when you can interfere - and effectively. And it seems this is the window period when you still are having a slow incremental rise in cases. If you wait until you have that quick peak, you may have missed the boat.

ARRAF: Jordan is seeing a steady but slow rise in infection rates. Along with about 10 million Jordanians, there are about 650,000 Syrian refugees in the country. Jordan's health care system is particularly vulnerable. Police have arrested 1,600 people for breaking the curfew since it was imposed Saturday.

Nasser bin Nasser, the head of the Middle East Scientific Institute for Security, says the government took drastic measures because people were still holding weddings and other big gatherings. He says, for the most part, Jordanians have accepted the new restrictions.

NASSER BIN NASSER: Maybe in the U.S. or more libertarian societies, where freedom of movement is so ingrained in the national psyche, this would be harder.

ARRAF: And as for the economic toll for practically shutting down an already poor country, Bin Nasser says the government has calculated that if they didn't take these measures and the country was overwhelmed with cases, the cost in money and lives would be much higher. Jane Arraf, NPR News, Amman.


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