Jordan announced stricter measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 on Wednesday and reimposed a full lockdown on Fridays after a month-long spike in cases attributed mainly to the fast transmission of the British variant of the coronavirus.
Health Minister Nathir Obeidat said the British variant was spreading fast across the country, threatening a deadly new wave unless people adhered to social distancing and mask-wearing in public.
The cabinet has decided to extend the country’s curfew back to 10 p.m., effective Thursday, after loosening it to midnight last month, and businesses would have to close at 9 p.m., Obeidat said. It was also reimposing a Friday lockdown, he said.
“We have seen a wide spread of COVID-19 and the British variant is the one now dominant in the capital and provinces,” he told a news conference.
The kingdom announced the appearance of the new variants after two travelers arrived from Britain in late December.
The cabinet also stiffened fines on people who fail to wear face masks and on businesses that do not impose social distancing measures, but avoided more drastic measures in an effort to protect the economy, which saw its worst contraction in decades last year.
In the last three days, cases have leapt back to a daily range of 4,000 after dropping to a quarter of that level since the end of November. But average deaths remain around ten, far less than a range of 60-70 in the last wave.
Some health officials said the latest spike was worsened by a government decision earlier this month to allow tens of thousands of students in elementary grades to return to schools.
The kingdom, with a population of around 10 million, has recorded 376,441 cases of COVID-19 and 4,611 deaths.