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Effectiveness of lockdowns mulled

27 Apr 2021 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, countries around the world are implementing a range of responses intended to help prevent the transmission of the disease, and Oman has kept pace with the developments to implement health safety measures. 

Besides the absence of enough COVID-19 vaccines, there is no clear indication of the effectiveness of lockdowns and movement bans as measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Prior to imposition of the movement ban in Oman in March, the daily infections count was below 800. Curiously, cases have risen to over 1,000 a day,  peaking over 1,400 on Monday. 

The number of patients in intensive care units also continues to rise though the recovery rate has marginally improved over the last few days. 

In the last 24 hours, 93 individuals were hospitalised accounting for a total of 814 inpatients, including 283 in ICUs. 

Nine more deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1,992. With 1,128 new cases on Tuesday, the total number of cases now stands at 191,398, while 170,929 patients have recovered from the disease.

The situation begs the question, are lockdowns and movement bans effective? According to health experts, the answer is not a simple one. They describe patience and self-awareness as the key long-term solution even as people continue to maintain social distancing and wear masks while vaccines are awaited. 

Dr Abdallah Daar, emeritus professor of clinical public health, global health and surgery at the University of Toronto, Canada, told Muscat Daily that vaccination is the long-term solution to tide over the situation.

“I think that the government has a difficult job balancing the economy while fighting the virus. Movement restrictions definitely can help the situation for a short time. However, the best thing is to get the population vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Health (MoH), over 250,000 individuals have been vaccinated in the sultanate in the first phase of its national immunisation campaign against COVID-19.

But despite the worrisome figures, there is optimism among health experts. Dr Sulaiman al Shereiqi, senior specialist in public health in MoH, informed that the epidemiological curve has been ‘showing a plateau since almost a week now’. 

“We need to encourage citizens to stick to the preventive measures. The third wave increase is universal, only curbed by existing high vaccination coverage in some countries and that’s why we need to work more towards this goal,” Dr Shereiqi said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), movement restrictions, often referred to as ‘lockdowns’, can slow COVID-19 transmission by limiting contact between people. ‘However, these measures can have a profound negative impact on individuals, communities, and societies by bringing social and economic life to a near stop,’ a WHO statement said.

‘Governments must make the most of the extra time granted by ‘lockdown’ measures by doing all they can to build their capacities to detect, isolate, test and care for all cases; trace and quarantine all contacts; engage, empower and enable populations to drive the societal response and more. WHO is hopeful that countries will use targeted interventions where and when needed, based on the local situation.’ 

Meanwhile, Royal Oman Police has arrested a group of people for violating the movement ban from 9pm to 4am in Buraimi. 

‘Buraimi Governorate Police Command arrested a group of people for violating the decisions of the Supreme Committee during the period of closure and movement ban. Legal procedures against them have been completed,’ an ROP statement said.

 

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