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Easing of restrictions eagerly awaited as cases drop further

14 Aug 2021 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

As daily infection count drops and more people continue to get vaccinated, an announcement from the Supreme Committee easing some of the restrictions that are currently in place is eagerly awaited. 

On Thursday, the Ministry of Health (MoH) reported 224 new cases and six deaths, the lowest number of daily deaths in many months. With these figures, the total number of cases registered in the sultanate now stands at 299,642, including 3,974 deaths.

‘Twenty-three patients were admitted to hospitals across the country in a 24-hour period on Thursday, taking the total number of inpatients to 281, including 124 in intensive care units. The total number of recoveries is 287,244, accounting for a recovery rate of 96 per cent,’ an MoH statement said.

Besides easing the ban on night movement, a decision is also awaited on resumption of travel without PCR tests and allowing vaccinated passengers from 21 banned countries to return to Oman. Expat employees with valid work visas have been stranded out of the sultanate for several months as a result of the travel ban. “One of the eagerly awaited decisions is lifting of restrictions from countries that are on the travel ban list, especially from Tanzania, India, Philippines, Bangladesh and Pakistan where most of the expatriate workforce come from. The ban has affected many businesses and the authorities need to consider this,” said Abdullah al Naamani, a construction company owner. 

The sultanate has currently suspended entry of passengers travelling from Sudan, Brazil, Nigeria, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, India, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Libya, Argentina, Colombia, and any other country if they passed through any of these in the 14 days prior to their request to enter the sultanate.

The current restrictions include a ban on visit visas which has affected many who have been separated from their loved ones for several months. “I am longing to see my son who is studying in Malaysia. We are Sri Lankan, but he can’t go there owing to travel restrictions to Sri Lanka. The only place for him is to come to Oman until things open up in Sri Lanka. I just hope visit visas are issued soon. My son has been stranded in Malaysia for so many months,” said N Mathews, a Sri Lankan resident in Muscat. 

Additionally, a nightly 10pm to 4am curfew is in place as a preventive measure against the spread of the virus. All commercial activities and movement, excluding home deliveries, are restricted during this period, until further notice, which has affected many businesses especially small shops.

“The night curfew has affected my business. I have to close my shop at 9pm. Before the pandemic, the shop did good business mostly at night. Now people want to rush back home before the nigh curfew. I hope this ends soon,” said Fatmah al Naamani, a clothing shop owner in Amerat.

Other restrictions, including limiting public gatherings, mandatory use of protective face coverings and compliance with social distancing guidelines, remain in force. 

A decision allowing Friday prayers in mosques is also eagerly awaited. “My main concern now is the Friday prayer. Many other countries have allowed worshipers to congregate on Fridays. I hope the authorities reconsider and allow Friday prayers in mosques,” said Mohsin Rashid.

 

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