Jordan announces record daily new COVID-19 cases

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan on Wednesday reported 2,648 new COVID-19 cases, its highest daily number since the start of the pandemic as the country faces a major outbreak with a tripling of deaths in just the last two weeks.

The surge in the last month has put Jordan's infection numbers above those of most of its Middle East neighbours and reverses months of success in containing the outbreak. It also accompanies an alarming jump in daily deaths that now average around 30.

Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh said although the country had entered a "difficult phase" after widespread community transmission, it would not reimpose a national lockdown.

"Long closures will only lead to the decimation of whole economic sectors," Khasawneh said in press comments, echoing concerns that a tight lockdown that paralysed daily life would cripple the already battered aid dependent economy.

Since the start of the pandemic, the country of about 10 million people has recorded 43,620 infections and 443 deaths, authorities said.

Khasawneh said the government had opted for a one-day lockdown on Friday for the rest of the year but a night curfew would be extended by another two hours to begin at 11 pm.

It also decided to close nurseries as of Saturday.

Schools, academies and universities would remain shut while restaurants and cafes would open with tougher health safeguards. A strict ban on social gatherings of more than 20 people from weddings to funerals would stay.

Health Minister Nizar Obeidat said the government was bracing for a possible jump to over 3,000 cases a day and said authorities would do everything to prevent a collapse in the healthcare system.

Jordan had 1,300 hospital beds with 700 intensive care beds and 600 respiratory units with capacity to raise these numbers, Obeidat said, adding there were now 1,078 patients being treated in hospitals.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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