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Jordan to jail organisers of large social events to stem COVID-19 spike


By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan announced on Thursday jail sentences of up to a year for anyone organising weddings, parties, funerals or social gatherings where more than 20 people attend, in the latest measures aimed at heading off a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

Government spokesman Amjad Adailah said the latest orders, which stem from an emergency law enacted by the monarch last April that gives the government sweeping powers to curb civic rights, would be strictly enforced.

"This order is to prevent the violations that have led to the spread of the virus and increase in infections," Adailah said, adding hefty fines would be imposed on attendees.

Health Minister Saad Jaber blamed the surge in cases in the past few weeks on "irresponsible" behavior at weddings and social gatherings where many mingle without masks and social distancing.

The kingdom reported 279 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, its highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic in March, bringing the country’s total to 4,131 with 26 deaths.

The authorities also suspended schools for two weeks as of Thursday for over 2 million pupils after dozens of cases were discovered among teachers and students since schools reopened at the start of the month after a five-month absence.

The Cabinet last Monday also closed restaurants and places of worship from mosques to churches for a similar two-week period as of Thursday. The government also will operate with fewer civil servants.

The government has refrained, however, from a nationwide lockdown that was enforced during the spring for fear of its consequences on an already battered economy.

Transport Minister Khaled Seif said on Thursday the authorities waived a two-week quarantine for travellers coming to Jordan as of next Wednesday and replaced it a week-long home quarantine.

The government hopes the latest measures will start to bring back a trickle of visitors to its private medical industry from war-torn spots in the region and help the recovery of its collapsed tourism sector, a main source of foreign currency.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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