Expert calls for Jordan to prepare for ‘third wave’ of COVID-19

People, some wearing protective masks, walk in downtown Amman
People, some wearing protective masks, walk in downtown Amman, amid fears over rising numbers of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases. (Photo: Reuters)
AMMAN — While COVID-19 cases have remained relatively low for the past weeks, an epidemiology expert and member of Jordan’s Epidemiology Committee called for Jordan to prepare itself for a third wave of the coronavirus. اضافة اعلان

“We are in good shape now. I think the curve is going down these days,” said Muhannad Nsour, executive director of the Eastern Medittarean Public Health Network and member of the Epidemics Committee, in an interview with Jordan News.

He described the second wave of COVID-19 in the Kingdom as “Coming to an end”. However, he pointed out that the low number of cases and deaths at the moment should not lull citizens into a false sense of security.

“The problem with Jordanians, as with many other people in the region, is that when we have a decline in the number of cases, we have relief and we go into a relax mode,” Nsour said. “I hope that this time we will not have as much a relaxed model. The difference between the first wave and the second wave was only two weeks because we relaxed, felt secure, felt safe, and we paid the price at the end of the day when we had a very strong wave. I hope this time we should be more realistic. We have to go gradually with opening up sectors.”

Nsour said that no matter how many restrictions Jordanians take, however, there is still the possibility of a third wave of COVID-19 hitting the country. “So far our level of vaccination is a bit low. We need to do more,” he said. “I think the third wave is something that we should be ready for. And we should not be surprised. We should immediately start working on the third wave.”

The epidemiologist also called on Jordan to focus on lessons learned from the challenges faced in the second wave. “We need to see our limitations or challenges that we faced in the second wave,” he said. “We need, for example, to make sure that all our hospitals are more ready to hold patients. We need to make sure that we have enough human resources. We need to make sure that we are doing more towards vaccinations.” He recommended field hospitals be well-equipped with both medical equipment and human resources.

Nsour added that the government’s stated goal of reopening the “Golden Triangle” of touristic sites — Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and Petra — for a “safe summer” is “realistic” because those sites all host relatively small populations. “It’s not highly populated. It’s easy to be controlled. It’s a very well-defined catchment area,” he explained.

However, for the rest of the population, Nsour expects Jordan will have to adjust to a “new normal. “We need to do more in terms of keeping distance, avoiding gatherings. We need to use our masks. I think this is our new normal,” he said. “We need to know that it will not disappear easily. It will not be treated by others for us. We have to be a strategic player to fight against this pandemic. This is normal.”

The scientist urged Jordanians to practice social distancing and refrain from large gatherings. “People like to gather. This is part of our culture,” he said. “You cannot imagine how critical this is for us ... We should not expect every time we have improvement in epidemiological situations that we go back to these gatherings. Social, religious, sport, whatever. It should be stopped.”

In addition to social distancing measures and wearing masks, Nsour emphasized that vaccination is a key weapon in the fight against the virus. “We need to do more with the vaccine. We need to vaccinate five, six million maybe” to reach herd immunity, he said. “We hope that at least now by the end of this year maybe (we will vaccinate) 4 million. We need to do it.”

On Tuesday, the government announced that over a million people in Jordan had received the COVID-19 vaccine. Nsour described the “first million” as “the most difficult one, but now we need to continue. And things are getting better in terms of the vaccine. Globally, people are becoming more interested and governments are taking more serious actions.”

The World Health Organization’s weekly Epidemiological Update noted that Jordan recorded 11,654 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week. There were 6,979 cumulative cases per 100 thousand of the population and 86.9 cumulative deaths per 100,000 of the population. The update also found that the global total of COVID-19 cases is at its highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic, with over 5.7 million new weekly cases. Additionally, the Eastern Mediterranean region ranks fourth in terms of new cases in the past week, contributing only 6 percent of new cases to the global total.

“We are part of the solution. Citizens should be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Nsour said. “We need to help each other by wearing masks.”

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