Oman has now eased a majority of restrictions on movement of people amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most anticipated decisions to open shopping malls was taken on Tuesday, which saw the malls opening their doors on Wednesday after a nearly three-month closure but with a few restrictions and heightened precautionary measures.
The move comes after the Supreme Committee for dealing with COVID-19 announced that the malls can reopen with certain precautionary measures and outlined the country’s steps to start post-coronavirus normalisation.
Ahead of the reopening, the Muscat Municipality as well as the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources (MRMWR) issued precautionary measures to be taken including age restrictions which does not allow individuals aged above 60 years or below 12 years to enter the malls or commercial shops.
How it will affect the mall businesses, only time will tell as potential visitors say the guidelines are a bit too strict to follow, especially for those having children. “Mall visits mean time out with the family, especially my children. I used to shop as my children played but now they are not allowed. I have to skip it for the time being. I will go only when necessary,” said Muna Abdullah al Naamani, a mother of seven.
To make the mall safer, Muscat Municipality guidelines state that the malls and shops should be adequately ventilated and regularly cleaned and hand sanitisers should be available at the entrance or on the cashier’s desk. “All surfaces such as mobiles and laptop screens at such shops are to be kept clean and sanitised regularly,’ the guideline said.
Also, as a precautionary measure, people going to these places will be able to stay there for only two hours and those who have a body temperature above normal will not be allowed entry.
“I am so exited about the opening of the mall. I think two hours are enough to spend in the mall as there is not much to do there since children are not allowed. Normally, it is the the children who want to spend more time there. I am happy for the businesses and I hope they make up for what they lost but I’m doubtful because the footfall will definitely be low because of the strict measures,” Abdul Aziz al Zadjali, a government employee, said.
As per the guidelines, all mall seating shall be removed from common areas and mall management will carry out routine inspection inside retailer stores to ensure effective and frequent disinfection and sanitisation is carried out by all outlets.
While prayer rooms shall be closed until further notice is issued by the Supreme Committee, the number of parking lots must be reduced to 50 per cent at all levels of the mall and commercial centres.
‘Staff should be positioned inside the mall to monitor whether customers are wearing face masks and to prevent gathering of customers at one place. They should prevent the entry of customers in case of crowding inside the mall,’ the guidelines said.
To make sure that customers should not stay for more than two hours, the mall management has to put a signboard mentioning the same. ‘All meetings with the vendors or contractors should be scheduled, preferably, via a teleconference or online. Avoid face-to-face meetings as much as possible,’ it said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to clean commonly touched surfaces, especially phone screens and laptops. These devices should be sanitised with the use of 70 per cent alcohol wipes or disinfecting wipes.
‘The mall reserves the right to take the necessary measures to close the shop or inform the concerned municipality if the retailer fails to comply with the precautionary procedures. Social distancing should be maintained in all common areas, elevators, escalators, food court, ATMs,’ the guidelines said.