Government to ease COVID-19 restrictions as of March 1

Government to ease COVOD-19 restrictions as of March 1 (2)
(Photo: Petra)
AMMAN — The government on Thursday announced that as of March 1, Jordanians are bound to see many COVID-19-related restrictions lifted if the expected improvement in the epidemiological situation materializes.اضافة اعلان

Minister of State for Media Affairs Faisal Al-Shboul and Minister of Health Firas Al-Hawari said at a press conference held at the Prime Ministry that new procedures will come into effect as of the beginning of next month, including no more quarantine for people who came into contact with COVID-19 patients, cancelling PCR tests for both Jordanians or non-Jordanians arriving to the Kingdom at airports, land and sea crossings, cancelling the requirement for a PCR test to attend concerts, weddings, all this without violating Defence Order No. 35, which requires two shots of vaccine as a condition to enter public and private facilities. 

Shboul told reporters that schools will reopen as scheduled on February 20 and that the 10 percent rule will be dropped, meaning that no school will be closed anymore if 10 percent of its students are affected by the coronavirus. Instead, students who test positive will have to quarantine at home.

The quarantine period has been slashed down to five days, counted from the day the sample was taken, without the need for a negative PCR to return to school.

It was also announced that only 4,000 tests will be carried out daily, down from the over 70,000 tests carried out in previous weeks due to the fast spread of the Omicron mutant. Mobile testing teams will be canceled, as will random testing.

Reports of new cases will be announced on weekly basis, instead of the daily bulletin published by the Ministry of Health.

However, some measures will remain in place, according to the health minister, who acknowledged that neither the vaccines nor the use of masks proved 100 percent effective. The Pfizer treatment, oral antiviral medicine Paxlovid, has been ordered by the government and is expected to start arriving in March. 

Oral antiviral medication does not replace vaccines, Shboul said, adding that the first batch will only include 2,500 doses of Paxlovid and are not expected to make a significant difference.

Defense Order 35, which requires two vaccine jabs to allow a person to enter a public or private establishment, will remain in effect for attendees of weddings and social gatherings.

Face masks will also remain a requirement because they "help protect those infected and those not (infected)", Hawari said, adding that optional vaccines will be available for children aged 5-11, and a center to vaccinate this age category will be opened at the Sports City in Amman. More will go operational, depending on the turnout, he said.  

The government will also allow COVID-19 home tests, but the health minister said that although these tests are widely used in some countries, authorities do not rate them as 100 percent reliable and have opted for a return to PCR testing.

Shboul said that there is no timeframe for further lifting of restrictions, and that any new decision will be taken depending on the epidemiological situation. At the same time, he said, the controversial Defense Law will remain in place "because it is in the interest of the citizens".

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