Jordan Takes Early And Intense Action To Slow The Coronavirus
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
All right, let's head overseas. In the Middle East, a visit to the central crisis center in Jordan shows how hard that country is trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Jordan has seen about 400 cases. NPR's Jane Arraf reports from Amman.
(SOUNDBITE OF SIREN SOUNDING)
JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: It's 6 p.m. in Jordan. Across the country every day, a siren sounds at the start of curfew, where almost everyone is required to be home, indoors. The sirens were previously used in wartime. It's a region used to war, but this crisis is uncharted territory. I pay a visit to the crisis management center, where they've designed and overseen an almost month-long countrywide lockdown to try to stay ahead of the pandemic.
ABDULLAH TOUKAN: (Non-English language spoken).
ARRAF: Abdullah Toukan, a nuclear physicist and an adviser to King Abdullah, shows the way past a disinfecting station and then down into an underground complex.
TOUKAN: They take temperature of whoever comes in. If it's above the normal, he's stopped and asked to go back and then goes to get a medical checkup.
ARRAF: There's an operation center modeled after a military command center with rows of desks arranged in front of a wall of huge video screens.
TOUKAN: Videos in real time showing you how the curve is going. It really does spread throughout the whole scope of the kingdom.
ARRAF: We're looking at some really empty streets.
TOUKAN: Yes. Look at that car. There's only one car, and people are getting used to it. And they know that this is one of the best ways to avoid crowd - people getting crowds and restaurants and so forth to avoid any sort of contamination.
ARRAF: Restaurants were shut down weeks ago along with schools, big supermarkets, offices, mosques and churches. Economic adviser Ameera Hiary tells us Jordan, like other countries, is trying to balance the health risks with the risks of shutting down the economy.
AMEERA HIARY: Because Jordan cannot afford a two- or three-month lockdown period. So really, really, my priority is testing. We have gotten the tests that we need. We have a way of ramping up capacity very quickly.
ARRAF: She says once Jordan is testing 2- or 3,000 people a day and still seeing small numbers of cases, then they can open up the economy again. With so many unknowns, the country's top infectious disease specialist says she would normally turn to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, for guidance, along with the U.N.'s World Health Organization. But Dr. Najwa Khuri-Bolos says she's begun to rely on other sources.
NAJWA KHURI-BOLOS: The CDC, in previous outbreaks, was a fantastic source of information. This time, for some reason, the messages out of the CDC were not as strong as usually are. And somehow, the messaging is not as clear from that source, so now we depend much more on the WHO. And many people sent me the recommendations from the Chinese CDC.
ARRAF: Khuri-Bolos says with this pandemic, all countries are learning as they go along.
Jane Arraf, NPR News, Amman, Jordan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.