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As the lockdown ends

Jun 06,2020 - Last updated at Jun 06,2020

After gaining the upper hand over the coronavirus in nearly a three-month face-off with the pandemic, the Kingdom has further eased its stringent lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

The government on Thursday announced a much-awaited decision allowing most sectors and services to resume operations, limiting the restriction on public movement from 6am to 12 midnight as of Saturday.

The government gained the confidence to ease restrictions after the country entered the moderate risk level, following its registering of less than 10 local COVID-19 cases for seven consecutive days, or after witnessing random test results that are 0.5 to 1 per cent positive.

This feat in the battle against the virus would not have been realised without the Kingdom’s prompt and timely measures taken well in advance, as reflected in its COVID-19 tally: 795 cases and nine deaths.

The strict but efficient action of authorities and the invaluable contributions of an army of healthcare cadres, security agencies, volunteers and the committed involvement of the public deserve credit. 

As a semblance of normalcy gradually returns to the Kingdom’s landscape, a harsh economic reality awaits the nation that emerges relatively unscathed health-wise from the deadly virus.

Despite this economic distress, the Kingdom has rolled out a slew of relief packages to cushion the impact of the pandemic. 

The government’s support to small businesses is welcoming news. However, its success lies in the proper implementation of relief measures.  A strategy to address the mounting unemployment rate is vital at this juncture.

Tourism, Jordan’s economic lifeline, which accounts for approximately 10 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, was badly hit by the pandemic. The resumption of domestic aviation and the opening of tourist sites for domestic tourism are small but relieving steps in the long post-virus recovery march.

Jordan’s acclaimed medical tourism sector also shows potential as a vehicle to revive the ailing tourism field, as reports emerge that many foreign patients have shown interest in booking for treatment in the Kingdom.

In terms of Jordan’s staple domestic products, His Majesty King Abdullah amid the crisis has urged the public and private sectors to expand the local production of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for domestic consumption and for exporting purposes. 

Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Omar Razzaz has pointed to the uphill battle to steady the economy, citing World Bank and International Monetary Fund statistics showing an estimated economic contraction in Jordan ranging between 3.4 and 3.7 per cent at a time when the economy was expected to grow by 1.9 to 2 per cent.

With a relaxation of the lockdown, vigilance over public health is still warranted. The lessons learned from the pandemic must be put to good use to maintain the Kingdom’s positive track record — whether via hygiene practices or physical distancing — to adapt to the new normal. 

Though the government has emerged with an enhanced testing capacity that has revealed a low number of cases, it is too early for the public to relax its guard, be it during lockdown or post-lockdown.

As the country emerges relatively unscathed from the pandemic, the economic wounds inflicted by the virus remain unhealed. After successfully flattening the pandemic curve, it is time to further address the economic impact of the coronavirus.

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