With the exception of a few, many citizens in Oman have been adhering to calls by the authorities to maintain social distancing even among family members. This is evident in the etiquette observed by locals when they meet and greet each other, even though they are family members, and this has paid off in curbing the spread of the disease.
Oman has reported 3,573 cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, majority of those infected being expatriates. According to health officials, many of them fail to practise social distancing due to a number of reasons.
“The majority of the infected are expatiates. However, those who do not have the right living conditions for home isolation (and social distancing) have been shifted to institutional isolation facilities,” said H E Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Sa’eedi, Minister of Health and member of the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from COVID-19 pandemic.
Oman’s Government Communications Centre (GCC) published a list of guidelines that must be followed. ‘Social distancing is a sort of behavioural change by adopting some actions that reduce communication and contact with others during this exceptional period, such as keeping a two-metre distance from others, not receiving visitors, not attending events, and not stepping out unless absolutely necessary,’ GCC said.
Guidelines are, indeed, followed by many. “It is so heart breaking how distant my siblings and I feel, considering how close we were before COVID-19. Right now, we try not to visit each other and whenever we do, and see each other, the best we do is to talk from a distance and cry. It is like we fear each other now, but I think this is for the better,” Asila al Naamani, an Omani woman based in Bausher, told Muscat Daily.
According to the Ministry of Health (MoH), the infection curve among Omanis has been slow, thanks to restrictive measures. “There is no other way but to commit to the social distancing and preventive measures,” H E Dr Mohammed bin Saif al Hosni, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, said.
Social distancing has now become a new way of life and many are committing to it. “By now people are well aware of the fact that social distancing needs to be maintained and even among our family members, it is now a practice. Whenever my sons and daughters, who live a few kilometres away from me, come home, we maintain a distance and we have stopped greeting each other with hugs and handshakes. This has become a norm now and no one feels bad about it,” Hamoud Khalfan, a Seeb resident, said.
To better inspect expatriate infection cases in a more focused way, MoH has been setting up a number of testing centres as well as having different campaigns to check for the spread of COVID-19. ‘We are implementing an expanded campaign to investigate the coronavirus among expatriate workers. We expect everyone to cooperate in the interest of public health,’ an MoH statement said.