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Letter from... Amman

09 June 2020

By Zein Sajdi, Analyst, Newgate Communications 

After two and a half months of lockdown, Jordan has finally announced its reopening. The country enacted the National Defense Law on March 18th 2020, placing the country under emergency military laws and enforcing a nationwide curfew. All shops, schools, universities services were shut down. After seven days of full lockdown, where people couldn’t even go for a walk outside, the government allowed essential shops to open, including supermarkets and pharmacies. People were allowed to walk only during curfew hours between 10 am and 6 pm. 

Towards the end of April, the government started gradually lifting these strict measures and allowed people to use their cars again, however under a specific odd-even system. This meant that, if someone goes out with an odd car plate on an even car plate day, they would be fined. This system reduced congestion by ensuring that people are not out at full capacity.

On June 6th 2020, all measures were lifted and the government announced that all sectors were reopening again, which included non-essential shops; bars, cafés, restaurants, gyms etc. However, this is done under specific regulations, with shops enforcing social distancing practices with a limited number of people allowed inside, gloves and masks on, and an activated curfew at 12am instead of 6pm. 

Despite it taking strict measures and succeeding in containing the spread in Jordan, people and the government have to deal with the virus' effect of the economy and people’s livelihoods.  

Before the virus, Jordan was fostering an already fragile economy[1]. And therefore, the impact of the lockdown is estimated to be grave. Naturally, this pandemic affected people significantly, with 68% of vulnerable Jordanian households reporting severe impact[2], according to recently released assessments by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Over 85% of the most vulnerable households faced difficulties in meeting their basic needs such as rent and food in the beginning of the lockdown. The UNDP maintains, ‘this highlights the very low levels of savings of many households and their limited resilience’[3]. Additionally, almost half of the respondents said that they felt food prices have significantly risen, despite the government’s efforts to control pricing strategies. 

Research shows that women in Jordan are likely to have born the highest burden. They are expected to lose more jobs and have been excluded from the numerous programs that were set up to protect daily-wage based workers – despite many women having to support their families and communities financially. Women who work in the informal economy obtain low wages and operate under extremely fragile conditions with no health insurance or social security[4]. The risks that they face are likely to be amplified as a result of COVID19. 

This pandemic shed light on various things in the country; it showed that there is a high sense of community within the Jordanian society and despite limited financial resources, the country swiftly responded. On the other hand, it also showed the vulnerabilities that exist within its economy and system.  As we stood up against the virus and stopped the spread early on, we now have to face the consequences by supporting the most vulnerable financially and socially.