Two Jordan ministers resign for partying in breach of COVID rules

Interior Minister Samir Mobeideen and Justice Minister Bassam Talhouni resign after violating COVID restrictions.

A policeman holds a stop sign in an almost deserted avenue in the Jordanian capital Amman, during a coronavirus lockdown [Khalil Mazraawi/AFP]

Jordan’s interior and justice ministers resigned after attending a dinner party at a restaurant that violated the coronavirus restrictions that their own ministries are supposed to enforce.

Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh on Sunday accepted the resignation of Interior Minister Samir Mobeideen and Justice Minister Bassam Talhouni, after they were accused, according to a government source, of “having violated the emergency law” – days after it was in place to stem a month-old surge of infections driven by a more contagious variant of the virus.

The Jordanian news website Ammon claimed the ministers had attended a dinner in a restaurant in Amman with a total of nine people, when the law allowed a maximum of six.

Their appearance in a public banqueting room, disregarding social distancing rules, added to widespread outrage at the hefty fines slapped on regular citizens while officials go unpunished for attending functions with far more than the 20 guests allowed.

Tawfiq Krishan, deputy prime minister and in charge of local administration, was appointed as the new interior minister.

People wait their turn to receive a dose of vaccine against the coronavirus COVID-19 disease, at a vaccination centre in the Jordanian capital Amman, on January 13, 2021 [File: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP]

Ahmed Ziyadat, state secretary for legal affairs, was named as justice minister.

Police have arrested dozens of people for breaking stay-at-home orders in recent weeks and shut hundreds of shops and businesses in one of the toughest crackdowns in a year of lockdowns and restrictions.

The government has also deployed more military personnel at hundreds of checkpoints to enforce last Thursday’s decision to bring forward a curfew from midnight to 10pm.

Officials say the latest wave of infections has been driven by people flouting restrictions on movement.

Under the new rules, anyone not wearing a face mask in public can be fined up to 100 dinars ($140), a punitive sum in a relatively poor country where the pandemic has pushed unemployment to record levels.

The kingdom, with a population of about 10 million, has recorded 380,268 coronavirus infections and 4,627 deaths.

Source: News Agencies