Aqaba tourism plans unperturbed by new Indian variant case

Aqaba airport
Tourists are seen at King Hussein Airport in Aqaba, on March 6, 2020. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — As the city prepares to reopen and welcomes the first tourist plane since the beginning of the pandemic, Aqaba recorded a positive Indian COVID-19 variant case on Tuesday.اضافة اعلان

The Indian sailor who tested positive for the virus arrived in Aqaba via King Hussein International Airport a few days ago, according to a media statement from Saeb Abu Abboud, director of Aqaba’s health directorate.

According to Abu Abboud, the sample was sent to Amman laboratories due to the lack of capabilities in Aqaba, and the lab confirmed that the Indian sailor is positive for the Indian virus three days following the Indian national’s arrival.

The variant, a possible cause of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in India, is classified by the World Health Organization as “a variant of interest,” suggesting it may have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, cause more severe disease, or evade vaccine immunity. Other strains with known risks, such as those first detected in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa, have been categorized as “variants of concern”, a higher threat level.

Abu Abboud added that the sailor was under quarantine throughout his stay in Jordan, in line with the approved and applicable health protocol, had no contact with anyone during this period except his driver, and left the Kingdom through King Hussein International Airport.

The sailor’s driver tested positive for COVID-19, but test results showed he was infected the British variant before meeting the sailor, according to Abu Abboud.

The driver and his family are under a ten-day quarantine, Abu Abboud added, noting that his family members has so far all tested negative for the coronavirus.

The sailor does not represent the first case of the Indian variant identified in Jordan. Three other cases of the Indian variant have been recorded, among individuals who had not recently traveled.

Additionally, on Monday, a tourist who had recently arrived from Bulgaria on the first tourism flight to reach Aqaba since the pandemic began tested positive for COVID-19.

Sharhabeel Madi, Commissioner for Tourism and Economic Affairs at the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA), told Jordan News that the government manages the tourism and health situations excellently, and they are dealing with the infected cases according to standardized protocols to ensure safety and health.

“The reopening of the tourism sector is still going ahead and we are waiting to receive many tourist trips at the end of next week,” Madi said.

Minister of Tourism Nayef Al-Fayez told Jordan News “we deal with the data according to the developments in the epidemiological situation and there are measures and international measures that we adopt to ensure the safety of citizens.”

“We need to start from a positive, but logical and realistic point as well. Globally, all indications point to the fact that the COVID-19 crisis has no clear end, so we must deal with it as part of the ‘new normal,’” he said. “Life must go on, but within all measures that guarantee safety. Some say that we should close our borders and isolate the state in order to preserve the safety of citizens, but the question is for how long?”

Fayez said that controlling the virus requires following the public safety protocols and conditions and receiving vaccinations. He also stressed that this crisis is not exclusive to Jordan, but rather is global.

MP Ahmad Al-Sarahneh, the head of the Health Committee in the Lower House, said that the solution cannot be more closures or curfews. “The economic situation no longer allows for more closures,” he said. “We must not be pessimistic, and we have to wait for the coming days to see what happens.”

Despite several requests for comment, officials from the Ministry of Health did not respond.

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