Personal account: reflecting on Jordan’s success in managing COVID-19 and protecting care homes

My name is John Black and I have worked in social care services for over 40 years as a social worker.  Having worked in Jordan previously, I took up a resident position in January 2019 working as an in-country expert in Jordan for a Northern Ireland based organisation, NI-CO on an EU funded project lasting some 3.5 years.  

Since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Jordan, I have chosen to remain here and continued to work on the project. 

I have been most impressed by the way the Government of Jordan moved to quickly introduce restrictions and measures to prevent the spread of the infection across the country since COVID-19 arrived here and I wanted to provide some reflections on this to others. 

Like the rest of the population of Jordan I too have been subject to the restrictions put in place and think that the number of infections and most significantly the number of COVID-19 related deaths in the country testify to how the restrictions have been adhered to and complied with.  A specific focus of my work here is in the residential care centres for people with a disability hence the specific references to residential care facilities in Jordan. 

I have been impressed that no infections have been identified in any residential care facilities and the country is now moving forward with an easement of the restrictions applied that so helped limit the spread of the virus. 

As the world reels and starts to show signs of recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic it is worth noting that in the midst of all that was happening Jordan, a relatively small country in the Middle East with a population of approximately 10.5 million, with refugees constituting a third of its population, has from the outset managed to contain the spread of the infection remarkably well.  The total number of COVID-19 related deaths in the country is 9* since the virus was first confirmed here on 02 March 2020. 

From the outset the Government of Jordan declared that its priority was to protect the lives of all its citizens and the measures taken across all residential care facilities including those for older people; those persons with a disability; orphanages and services for juveniles have resulted in no coronavirus infections being identified in any of these services. 

Whilst there have been tight restrictions applied by the Government, residential facilities have continued to provide care and support to some of the most vulnerable in Jordanian society. The restrictions applied by Government have included: 

  • Travel bans, international travel with all flights to and from the country suspended since 17 March and across the country with limitations on cars being allowed on the road;
  • businesses have been closed temporarily particularly restaurants and other entertainment venues such as cinemas and children’s play activity services;
  • curfews on a daily basis from 7.00 pm to 08.00 am have been applied rigorously as well as occasional complete curfews lasting either 24 or 48 hours,
  • quarantine arrangements with no option to either ‘agree’ to stay at home or sign a commitment to do so, there are designated places, generally hotels, where you are required to stay, and
  • social distancing in place for everyone. 

The project on which I am working has a key focus on the deinstitutionalisation of care homes for people with a disability and at the very start of the infection being identified in Jordan the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD), put in place several key measures to protect those living in the care homes. 

At one care centre, that I have worked closely with and that accommodates approximately 160 men with a wide range of disabilities, I have learned that these actions have included: 

  • A ban on all but absolutely essential family and other visitors to the home with the exceptions being health visits by GPs and MoSD senior officials. 
  • Staff at the centre working in three distinct teams and each team spends a full week working and actually living in the centre.  The three teams then alternate weeks, with each also then having two weeks off from work.  The idea of this being that information regarding the incubation period of the virus meant that if someone not working develops it, they will have symptoms – not an exact science, but one that has proven highly effective. 
  • Daily monitoring of both residents and staff takes place routinely to check on their health condition. 
  • Safe hygiene practices being applied thoroughly and guidance strictly followed by all those working at the care homes.

I believe that the same arrangements pertain in the other 4 Ministry run centres for adults and children with disabilities.  I understand that similar arrangements are in place in the orphanages, as well as in the care homes for older people and the juvenile detention centres.  

It is also my understanding that the arrangements for the medical and nursing staff working with those who are infected is that they work a two week ‘shift’ in the hospital, without going home at all.  They then go into strict quarantine for two weeks before then returning to work their next two week ‘shift’ in the hospital – they do not even get home to be with their family.  

Whilst the situation in care facilities has been so well managed, with the staff of the centres very supportive of the arrangements introduced by MoSD, in general, across the country as a whole, the population has been very supportive of the measures introduced by Government and in the main has complied with the restrictions that have been imposed.

As I reflect on the past two months, living through the same restrictions as everybody else here in Jordan, it strikes me that the Government’s stated aim of preventing death and the spread of infection has been remarkably successful.  So much so that in recent weeks, we have seen a significant relaxation of the restrictions in place, with shops and businesses being allowed to open, so long as they maintain the social distancing and hygiene measures in place and cars being allowed back on the roads. 

The daily curfew continues and breaches of the existing restrictions are still dealt with swiftly and expediently.  The Government provides a daily update on any relaxation of restrictions through local news channels and any decisions are reviewed on a daily basis to ensure that they are able to continue. 

In conclusion, as I look at how some other countries in Europe and across the world continue to struggle with managing the impact of COVID-19 and try to return to some normalcy, I think that Jordan is well placed and moving quickly to do so. 

Jordan might even provide an example to others about how such an unfortunate and tragic situation, as that brought by COVID-19, may be managed and people better safeguarded. 

*Roya News website – 14 May 2020

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