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Oman on right track to reopen as per WHO guidelines

13 May 2020 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has cautioned countries around the world not to hasten lifting of lockdowns as the only way to protect lives and livelihoods is by a way of slow and steady lifting of restrictions. 

“The key is to keep a vigilant eye on the virus so that control measures can be quickly implemented if an upswing in cases is identified,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General said in his opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 on Monday.

“Over the past week several countries have started lifting ‘stay at home’ orders and other restrictions in a phased way. Many have used the time to ramp up their ability to test, trace, isolate and care for patients, which is the best way to track the virus, slow the spread and take pressure off the health systems.” 

The good news, he said, is that there has been a great deal of success in slowing the virus and ultimately saving lives. “However, such strong measures have come at a cost and we recognise the serious socio-economic impact of the lockdowns which have had a detrimental effect on many people’s lives,” said Ghebreyesus.

H E Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Sa’eedi, Minister of Health, and member of the Supreme Committee tasked with dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, said that even though predictions forecast the continuation of the pandemic for months, if not years, Oman is ready to tackle the problem. “Countries have a great responsibility to study ways of bringing things back to normal and we are doing that slowly and steadily,” he said.

Ghebreyesus outlined three key questions that countries should ask prior to the lifting of lockdowns: First, is the epidemic under control? Second, is the healthcare system able to cope with a resurgence of cases that may arise after relaxing certain measures? And third, is the public health surveillance system able to detect and manage the cases and their contacts, and identify a resurgence of cases? 

In Oman, the Ministry of Health has confirmed that it has sufficient number of coronavirus testing kits, all of which are molecular tests that meet the standard set by the World Health Organization and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The infection curve’s upward movement has been slow thanks to restrictive measures and there is no other way but to commit to social distancing and preventive measures, “ said H E Dr Mohammed bin Saif al Hosani, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health.

WHO also said that early serological studies reflect that a relatively low percentage of the population has antibodies to COVID-19, which means most of the population is still susceptible to the virus. “WHO is working closely with governments to ensure that key public health measures remain in place to deal with the challenge of lifting lockdowns. Until there is a vaccine, the comprehensive package of measures is our most effective set of tools to tackle the virus,” Ghebreyesus said.

“WHO recommends all places of work carry out a risk assessment for workers potential exposure to COVID-19. This includes the implementation of measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Workplaces should develop action plans for prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 as part of their overall business plan. The plan should also include measures for protecting health, safety, and security in re-opening, closing, and modifying workplaces,”  Ghebreyesus added.

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