Industry experts await upcoming reopening decisions

A man works out in an empty gym
A man works out in an empty gym in this undated photo. The government this week announced it would consider the gradual reopening of some sectors; however, gyms will remain closed. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — As curfew measures are eased throughout the Kingdom and COVID-19 cases continue to decline, industries are awaiting governmental decisions regarding the reopening of their sectors. اضافة اعلان

The government announced earlier this week that it will consider the gradual reopening of closed sectors starting on June 1. These decisions will be based on the coronavirus developments in the Kingdom, in addition to vaccination progress.

Cafe and restaurant sector

“The government promised to reopen almost all sectors and ease the measures in June. We are waiting for that,” a source from the Jordan Restaurants Association (JRA) told Jordan News. “We hope that this really happens as almost all sectors have been affected.”

Despite recent decisions regarding the reduction of curfew hours and the end of Friday lockdowns, previous lockdown decisions have devastated the restaurant sector and left a lasting impact. “The government is working with the owners to find solutions and compensate for their losses,” the JRA source added.

Several cafe owners pointed to the ban of argileh in restaurants as a major factor to their losses, and hope that this restriction will also be lifted. “Banning argileh is one of the reasons behind the lack of customers and work, and therefore the rise of losses,” they said. “We want the government to allow us to serve argileh if they really want to help us, and in return we promise to maintain high safety measures.”

Sports and fitness sector

Meanwhile, a sector still awaiting any reopening is the sports and fitness sector, which includes gyms and fitness centers. The government had announced an extension of their closures on Tuesday.

“We were not expecting closures to continue because cases are going down,” said GX gym owner Rima Amer in a phone interview with Jordan News. Although they expected the sector to reopen in June, it is now unclear whether that will be possible. 

Amer explained that since the beginning of the pandemic, the sector has been abiding by social distancing, sanitization, and occupancy measures and yet they are among the last sectors to reopen. 

“We are considered to be a part of the recreational sector even though we are in the health sector,” Amer explained. “Sports and fitness centers help build immunity.”

Due to these closures, businesses in the industry are struggling to pay salaries, and face the huge burden of rent payments, Amer said.

According to Jordan Olympic Committee media manager, Zaid Al-Sarayrah, the committee has formed a special commission to work on the matter of sport and fitness centers reopening. 

“The commission worked closely with the relevant government agencies, especially the health and economic departments, to highlight the physical, mental, and economic impacts that stopping the sport sector had on Jordan and its population,” Sarayrah told Jordan News.

“By working together, strict new protocols and procedures have been put into place to ensure that sport can return in a safe and secure environment.”

Pool and hotel sector

Along with the fitness sector, the government has also announced that public and hotel pool closures will continue till further notice. 

“Hotels have been suffering since the beginning of the pandemic. Tourism has dropped and therefore so have (the number of) hotel guests,” a source from the Jordan Hotel Association told Jordan News. “Some people used to come and spend a day at a hotel and especially in summer. ... This does not happen nowadays with the pool closure decision.”

The source believes that policymakers should reevaluate the closure decision, and instead implement occupancy regulations. 

“The government should reconsider opening them again, especially because studies have confirmed that COVID-19 cannot be spread in pools,” he explained. “Anything is just better than just keeping them closed.” 

Tourism, the source added, is an essential element of Jordan’s economy and must therefore be protected. 

“Those people might travel abroad to enjoy the summer and we will lose them,” he explained. “We must get money and save our investments; we are losing our employees, and this means an increase in unemployment and poverty.” 

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