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‘Free COVD-19 tests, treatment, a blessing’

3 Jun 2020

Oman’s humanitarian approach to provide free COVID-19 test and treatment for poor expatriates has been praised by people who struggle to make two ends meet and have suffered the most.    

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is continuing to provide free treatment for residents who do not have health insurance support and cannot afford the COVID-19 test and follow up treatment.  

When Muscat Daily visited Wadi Kabir Health Centre, Bashar, who works in a garage and is out of work for the last three months, came there to get himself screened as one of his roommates had tested positive. “We do not have money to eat and it would have been impossible for us to pay for the COVID-19 screening test. This free test is a blessing for us,” he said. 

Mohammed Ali, who works as a part-time house cleaner and was tested positive, was consoled by his friend Bilal as he waited for the bus to pick him up for an institutional quarantine facility provided by the MoH. Ali said, “I am thankful to His Majesty the Sultan for this free test and quarantine facility. Without this, I would have died. I do not have family to support me and I do not earn enough to cover the test and institutional quarantine cost.” 

Bilal, a COVID-19 recovered patient, said, “The cost of the COVID-19 test equals to what we earn. Without the help of the Omani government we would have not been able to recover.” Bilal had not used the institutional quarantine facility, although he received the follow-up medication from the MoH health centre. 

Abdullah, another COVID-19 positive case, while waiting for the institutional quarantine bus, said, “I am in a position that I cannot even share this news with my aged parents and young kids. Only my wife knows that I have tested positive. If my parents come to know that I have tested positive for COVID-19, they will be shattered. I do not have severe symptoms now, but I am afraid it may get worse, that is why I am using the quarantine facility.” 

A health worker at the centre said that the biggest problem was the large turnout of people without symptoms. “They visit and insist for the test while they do not have any symptoms. Yesterday, around 60 workers of one company came to the health centre and none of them had any symptoms. They got scared because one of the employees tested positive and wanted us to do screening for all the employees.” 

The official added that if a person visits them with symptoms and is eligible for free screening, the needful is done. “If he has a facility to undergo quarantine at his or her accommodation, then we advice them to isolate themselves for 14 days. We call every day and ask about their health and symptoms. If the symptoms get worse, we advice them to visit the health centre or arrange an ambulance to shift them to an MoH hospital.” 

The official said, at the end of the quarantine, a release letter mentioning the quarantine period, and the negative test result, are issued. “We urge people to not visit the health centres if they have are no symptoms. This is putting extra burden on health workers as well as increasing the risk of exposure to the visitors.” 

(Text and photos by Syed Fasiuddin)

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