AMMAN (Reuters) — Jordan said on Monday it would extend a curfew indefinitely and promised it would begin to deliver food and essential goods across the country to homes during a tight lockdown to try to rein in the spread of the coronavirus.
Minister of State for Media Amjad Adailah said the government had made arrangements with municipal councils to deliver enough bread, water, gas cylinders and basic medicines across the country for the rest of the week.
The authorities worry lifting the curfew for a few hours for people would create panic buying and hoarding of supplies that would risk the accelerating spread of the virus.
“We have to prepare ourselves for a difficult period,” Adailah told state media.
Confirmed cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus in the country of 10 million have steadily risen within a week to 127 people from six. There have been no deaths.
Jordan announced a nationwide curfew on Saturday under draconian emergency laws that give authorities sweeping powers that restrict civil and political rights.
“Jordanian authorities should stick by their commitment not to abridge basic rights under the state of emergency and to ensure that all measures taken are necessary and proportional to the threat posed by the pandemic,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at U.S based Human Rights Watch.
King Abdullah in a televised appearance also implored his countrymen to avoid going out and respect the curfew to help combat the virus that has infected more than 367,000 people worldwide.
The country has deployed thousands of troops at checkpoints in main cities to ensure the curfew was heeded, saying many residents had flouted earlier calls to stay home.
“There are people who do not know the extent of the danger that is lurking and insist on breaking the law,” said army spokesman Brigadier General Mukhles al Mufleh, adding more than 800 people had been arrested.
Interior Minister Salameh Hamad told Al Mamlaka news channel that security forces had prepared four prisons to place violators in custody for two weeks ahead of pressing charges.
“We won’t be lenient with anyone who violates the law,” he said.
Humanitarian groups say many of Jordan’s poor, who make up the majority of the population, are already suffering from scarce food supplies and would be further hurt by an extended curfew.
The government has said it will help low income wage earners by delivering subsidized bread and food items that have a cap on their retail prices.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Nick Macfie and Bill Berkrot
Image: The streets of the Jordanian Capital are seen empty after the start of a nationwide curfew, amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, in Amman, Jordan, on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Air raid sirens echoed across Jordan’s capital to mark the start of the three-day curfew, which has been extended indefinitely. In one of the strictest measures yet, Jordan has ordered all shops to close and all people to stay off the streets. Authorities have already arrested 392 people accused of violating the curfew (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)