Outlasting Covid-19: a Jordan journal-14

Week 7 of Jordan lockdown: Spring awakening…

A lot has changed in Jordan over the last 10 days. The spring flowers have come and gone. And so has the virus. After many days with only some residual new cases, the country has seen 5 consecutive days of zero new ones internally. Sadly, the death count has reached 9, with 2 more during this period. But the number of active cases has plummeted to just 62 from a high of 250.

Jordan’s extensive testing and tracing activity since the onset of the problem has succeeded, and continues with about 3000 to 4000 tests per day around the country (the equivalent of doing over 100,000 daily in the US). International praise has appeared on French and US television, as well as recognition of its “great success” from international bodies. The Health Minister, who has been called the Dr. Fauci of Jordan, affirmed that early awareness of the threat and actions taken from mid-January on saved Jordan from the problems other countries still face. And that praise has extended to Jordan’s care for its huge population of refugees from neighboring countries. Unlike in Singapore, these people have been protected from the virus even in the largest compound with 77,000 people.

Neighborhood stores now free to open

All kinds of stores have opened, including clothing stores, medical clinics, hair cutting shops, mall shops, and more.

Car traffic has resumed. Flights are now bringing home thousands of Jordanian students who have been stuck overseas.

All these changes, however, do come with proscriptions on the activity. Returning students will be quarantined for about a month. Driving is only authorized on alternate days based on license numbers, and only within a governorate (like a county in the US). Limits on numbers within a shop, including staff levels, and distancing rules at malls. Restaurants operate by delivery only. Police patrols and spot-checks flag, then close down, violators.

Abu Darwish mosque atop Al Ashrafyeh hill, built in 1961, quite a hike up

No group gatherings are allowed, whether at the mosques or during the evening break from fasting during this holy period of Ramadan. Finally, curfews continue every evening from 6pm to 8am the next morning, and all day on Friday – an enforced 40% reduction in social contact.

And the ever-present cafes remain closed for now. This is a cultural loss for the people here because they truly offer “social engagement” even more than the coffee itself. Instead of “a table for none,” as one media outlet put it, owners are hoping for perhaps a 50% level of re-opening at some point. At least the country’s social support system is ensuring that employees of these and most other establishments can survive with an income guarantee of half their salaries.

Traffic crush on a main street

Though the buzz of the awakened city is a welcome change, we do regret loss of the quiet that had enveloped Amman during the past month – and recurs during the curfew hours. The sounds of silence, the untrafficked streets, the chirping of the birds, are gone during most days.

Otherwise, our life continues in much the same routine. The grocery shops have been open from the start and we have no car. So we take several different routes on a return trip of an hour or two to various stores in the neighborhood. We play games or just sit out on our ample deck at mid-day during the delightful spring weather, as the amplified chants from the mosques echo off the hills. We hike up 200 m (650 feet) to the hilltop opposite our deck and back. We continue long talks with friends and family.

Some things are different.

We started to socialize, first with our friend Hossam, the sweet shop owner, and his wife, stopping in at his shop for some conversation.

Rolling the cheese in the phylo-type pastry

Then we all dared to gather in their home for a delicious taste of homemade kollaj, a local dessert delicacy.

Lightly browning the kollaj

We sat and talked, while enjoying the afternoon warmth and panoramic view from their rooftop. We also planned to visit our host’s farm in the Jordan Valley.

Enjoying kollaj

And, more significantly, we faced down our fears of leaving this bubble, at last booking a flight from Jordan to Portugal for 2 June. Even with tickets, this may not happen, as airports along the way may still be closed and flights cancelled.

Well, still in Jordan for now anyway, we wish that you all STAY SAFE AND WELL.

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