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Jordan’s COVID-19 response trumps the United States

May 06,2020 - Last updated at May 06,2020

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused international upheaval, with certain countries taking drastic preventive measures, while others have been slow to respond. Over the past four weeks, the Jordanian government has imposed strict preventative measures that have been successful in keeping the countries’ case and death rates relatively low. Currently, the United States is leading in the amount of COVID-19 cases and deaths, surpassing Italy and Spain. President Donald Trump’s lagging initial response to the crisis was due to the administration’s refusal to recognise the severity of the virus in late February, despite international warnings.

The government was swift in responding to COVID-19 by shutting down borders, quarantining new arrivals and declaring a national emergency, ultimately leading to a strict curfew. The Jordanian government responded quickly knowing that the country’s healthcare system would be unable to handle a COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, the government imposed early restrictions when there were only a handful of cases in early March. Further, there are an estimated 745,000 refugees in Jordan, with many living in refugee camps. An outbreak in one of these camps would be catastrophic since large families typically live in one household and limited medical supplies are available in the camps. To protect the population, the government decided to quickly close schools and implement strict border controls.

Jordan has shown its willingness to put Jordanian citizens and residents over their economy. Jordan’s economy was struggling before COVID-19, with a 19 per cent national unemployment rate. Since COVID-19, the country has implemented movement restrictions, mandatory closing of all non-essential businesses, and a daily curfew, which has further contributed to economic hardships. Yet, some Jordanians believe there should be further restrictive measures taken, such as more 48-hour lockdowns and increased promotion of hygiene practices. Countries that are successfully containing the virus within their borders, including Jordan, should be leading examples to other nations on how to implement effective prevention measures.

The opposite willingness can be seen in the United States. In late-February, Trump stated that the virus was “very much under control” encouraging people to continue with ‘business as usual’. By mid-March, as the stock market was crashing, the Trump administration admitted that, in fact, the virus was “very bad.” Over the past month, cases have exponentially increased with health facilities reaching full capacities. This demonstrates that the Trump administration’s political morals lie within economic interests, superseding citizen’s health. The exponential rise in cases is due to the lack of national lockdown measures that could have been implemented in late-February.

Most countries, including Jordan, have declared a national lockdown to ‘flatten the curve’, but the United States has yet to implement one. State governors have become the leaders in handling preventative measures for state residents. However, the Republican governors of Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have still not announced state restrictions at this time. Some of these governors defend their inactions by claiming that residents are responsible for protecting themselves during this pandemic. They are afraid to issue state orders due to the political costs they could suffer from higher leadership within their party.

In addition to great human loss, the United States’ image has now been internationally tarnished due to its global inaction with foreign leaders now shaping effective containment initiatives, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Trump has decided to cut funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) stating, “The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet, and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.” The WHO had warned Trump about transmission risks back in January. The funding cuts for the WHO will not only exacerbate the pandemic in the United States but also will affect the lives of those around the world, particularly those living in low and middle-income countries.

The United States’ current COVID-19 policy does not provide national leadership during a time of crisis, but rather succumbs to politics overriding American lives. It is apparent that the continuous buildup of political polarisation in the United States is now hindering the protection of American citizens from COVID-19. Despite economic consequences, the Jordanian government decided to protect their citizens early on and are taking measures to ensure that delivery services and movement within the country is safe before proceeding. The pandemic is testing country leaders in their ability to protect their citizens and the Jordanian government has shown that it values their citizen’s lives. American citizens, both conservatives and liberals, deserve so much more from their national leadership.

Lara Bellone d’Altavilla is a freelance writer and Project Volunteer with the Jordan Health Aid Society

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