image Photo: Reuters

Jordan opens field hospitals to counter coronavirus outbreak

Jordan‘s Ministry of Health has confirmed 274 cases and five deaths from the coronavirus.

The Jordanian Medical Association has opened field hospitals where urgent medical cases aside from COVID-19 can be treated, as a means to alleviate pressure on public hospitals struggling to cope with the contagion in the Hashemite Kingdom.

The President of Jordanian Doctors Association, Ali Obous, told Reuters that “This initiative was launched because the public sector currently focuses on handling the coronavirus epidemic, while there are still other diseases that are more important and might endanger people’s life. We helped the public sector by creating a field hospital and provide each civil defense vehicle with a doctor. When the law was enforced, hospitals were crowded with patients.”

The program has been named “Watan,” meaning “homeland” in Arabic. In collaboration with the Jordanian Civil Defense, patients are picked up from home by volunteers and taken to mobile clinics stationed at Amman’s Professional Associations’ complex. The admission procedure involves an initial medical check-up within a vehicle provided by the Civil Defense, where a general health assessment includes the taking of temperature to see if the coronavirus is present. “This is followed by additional check-ups, including a dental examination,” explained Dr. Mousa Qazan, followed by the writing of a report and sending of the patients into the mobile clinics.

55 doctors have so far volunteered to take part in this initiative and at least 7,000 medical prescriptions have been issued. All of the medical personnel are clad in protective gear, including sterile gowns, gloves and surgical masks.

One patient identified as Oun Mismar described the service as “really excellent, honestly.” He said after that he was picked up from his home within just 15 minutes after calling for assistance, and only had to wait in line for another 5 minutes before being seen by medical personnel. “The situation here is great, they are very well organized,” he added.

Jordan is in the midst of a strict lockdown to prevent the spread of the pandemic, imposed after King Abdullah II enacted an emergency decree giving the government sweeping powers to enforce an army-imposed curfew and other measures that restrict civil and political liberties.

All land and sea border crossings with Israel, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian territories have been sealed, and all incoming and outgoing flights have been suspended. Only cargo flights and commercial overland shipments have been allowed in and out of the country.

The first death from the disease of a woman in her 80s was announced by the state news agency on Twitter early on 28 March.

Other assistance is being undertaken by the Jordanian army, which has been tasked with delivering packages of non-perishable items including canned goods and oil to 30,000 less-fortunate families. The distribution is being funded by the government-owned Social Security Corporation. According to the organization’s Spokesperson Musa Sbeihi, in the future it is hoped that packages will also be delivered to laborers who have lost their jobs as a result of the ongoing circumstances. “We have launched an online platform to enable day laborers to apply for urgent and quick aid – seeing as their work has been on hold during this crisis,” he said.

One grateful citizen in Zarqa, Mohammed Abdelhamid exclaimed, “Thank God, this came right in time, we have been home, we haven’t left at all. Hopefully God will make things easier, we have to be patient.”

Yesterday, a total of 1,934 people who had been quarantined in hotels on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea were evacuated in organized trips to their residences. The hotels were used as temporary accommodation in mid-March for citizens who had returned from abroad. Even though they had been isolated for the last two weeks, the government urged those released to spend at least 14 more days at home before interacting with non-family members.